Gun violence restraining orders (GVROs) are a promising strategy for reducing firearm homicide and suicide in the United States, and should be considered by states seeking to address gun violence, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of California, Davis, argue in a new report.
The article is being published online in Behavioral Sciences and the Law on May 20.
GVROs allow family members and intimate partners who believe a relative’s dangerous behavior may lead to violence to request an order from a civil court authorizing law enforcement to remove any guns in the individual’s possession, and to prohibit new gun purchases for the duration of the order.
Three states have laws that authorize law enforcement to remove guns from someone identified as dangerous: Indiana, Connecticut, and Texas. In 2014, California became the first state in the nation to allow family members and intimate partners to directly petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from a family member if they believe there is a substantial likelihood that the family member is a significant danger to himself or herself or others in the near future. The law, passed by the California legislature, takes effect January 1, 2016.
“GVROs allow family members or intimate partners who identify a pattern of dangerous behavior to intervene in advance of something bad happening,” says lead author Dr. Shannon Frattaroli, an associate professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “Currently under federal law, those who have been involuntarily committed to inpatient treatment for mental illness or those who have been convicted of felonies are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, but there is no temporary prohibition based on dangerousness,” Dr. Frattaroli said. “The limitation of this approach is that firearm removals do not go into effect until an extreme event that results in a criminal justice or mental health system response has already occurred.”