Courts in Rhode Island rarely require abusers to turn in their firearms, even when orders prohibit them from possessing firearms under federal law and there is evidence they pose a lethal risk to victims, according to research presented today at the American Public Health Association's 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver.
Researchers from Everytown for Gun Safety examined 1,609 case files of protective orders filed in Rhode Island Family and District courts from 2012-2014. Files were reviewed to determine whether there were indications that a gun was present; whether there were aspects of the abuse, such as a history of strangulation, that are linked to a higher risk of homicide; whether the order prohibited the abuser from buying or possessing firearms under federal law; and whether the court ordered the abuser to turn in their firearms.
Results showed that 23 percent of cases where protective orders were filed indicated a risk of firearm use, and in 39 percent of cases, victims reported at least one factor linked to a higher risk of homicide. In 72 percent of cases, the abuser was prohibited from possessing a firearm by federal law. However, Rhode Island courts only required abusers to turn in their guns in 5 percent of cases.
"In Rhode Island, domestic abusers are rarely required to turn in their firearms -- even when they are federally prohibited from possessing them," said researcher Sarah Tofte. "Addressing this gap in the state's law could help prevent risk of gun violence to potential abuse victims."
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