About Domestic Violence
Nationally, one in four women and one in seven men experience a form of severe physical domestic violence. In Washington state, there are more than 50,000 domestic violence incidents reported annually. In 2017, there were 51 domestic violence murders in Washington. Domestic violence relationships extend beyond intimate partners and can include children, parent, siblings and other family members.
Research has shown that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicides against women by 500 percent.
Preventing Domestic Violence
After years of advocacy from survivors and families, in 2014 Washington State legislators unanimously strengthened laws prohibiting domestic violence abusers from having access to weapons when certain Protection Orders are issued. However, very few resources were available to implement the law and data showed that very few firearms were being surrendered as a result of sporadic enforcement.
Upon recommendation by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation, in partnership with stakeholders and the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, Seattle and King County created and fully funded the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit (RDVFEU). The unit takes a multi-disciplinary, regionalized, and dedicated approach to tackling this public health and public safety priority. The unit now manages the data entry, service, tracking, and enforcement of the orders as well as the receipt, storage, and return of surrendered firearms across Seattle and King County. They have also served as models for other counties seeking to better implement existing laws. In the first year of operation, the unit seized 466 firearms in King County.
Domestic violence is the single greatest predictor of future violent felony crime.
Law Enforcement and Victim Safety Implementation
Thousands of times each year in the United States, someone convicted of domestic abuse or subject to an active restraining order seeks to illegally purchase a gun from a licensed dealer — too often without any consequences. In 2017, Washington became the first state to require authorities to notify victims when such an attempted sale takes place. The law cracks down on all prohibited purchasers who attempt to buy firearms in the state, a practice known as “lie and try,” and requires gun dealers to notify law enforcement when individuals try to purchase a firearm and fail a background check, providing police with a new tools to investigate illegal attempts to buy guns.
Law Enforcement and Victim Safety notifies law enforcement and victims when felons, domestic abusers and other ineligible people illegally attempt to purchase guns. This gives victims an opportunity to proactively take steps to keep themselves and their families safe.
In 2018, we launched the Disarm DV website in partnership with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence and Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. This website allows individuals to research state-specific laws on domestic violence restraining order firearm removals in a user-friendly manner. Disarm DV will enable survivors, advocates, and others to get the information they need without having to conduct extensive legal research on their own.