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Protection that matters 

Domestic violence restraining orders, which protect victims and communities from gun violence, are under threat

Gabriella is a survivor of intimate partner violence. When they were together, Gabriella's husband was very controlling and would sometimes hit Gabriella or threaten her with his handgun. Gabriella is now separated from her husband, but he continues to contact her. He leaves her frequent messages, and sometimes shows up to her work or home unannounced.

Gabriella calls her local domestic violence crisis line, and they connect her with legal assistance, who help her to file for a domestic violence restraining order. The order says that her ex-husband can no longer contact her or come to her workplace. The order also states that he can no longer possess or purchase firearms, and that he must relinquish the ones he already has. Police officers serve the order, and confiscate the guns in his possession. Gabriella still worries about her and her family's safety, but she feels better knowing that he no longer has possession of the guns he used to threaten her with.

Gabriella is not a real person, but her story is one that echoes that of countless intimate partner violence survivors across the country. Like Gabriella, 4.5 million American women alive today have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun, and intimate partner violence situations are five times more likely to end in homicide when abusers have access to a gun. Survivors like Gabriella rely on the power of tools like the domestic violence restraining order to protect them and their families. If Gabriella did not have access to these protections, and her abuser was able to easily access firearms, this story may have ended differently. Unfortunately, for survivors like Gabriella, these protections are currently under threat.

In February of this year,the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a law prohibiting abusers from possessing firearms, calling it unconstitutional. The Fifth Circuit has argued that because there were no restrictions on firearm ownership in 1791, it is unconstitutional to restrict domestic abuser's' access to them today. The Department of Justice has now asked the Supreme Court to fast-track its consideration of this ruling, but the consequences of this ruling could be disastrous for survivors of intimate partner violence.

While preventing intimate partner homicide is the immediate focus of these laws, they also serve another purpose. Research shows that domestic and family violence is connected to mass violence and shootings. Almost 60 percent of all mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 were domestic violence related, and domestic violence related mass shootings tend to be much more deadly. Domestic violence restraining orders not only protect survivors but entire communities. Limiting perpetrators' access to firearms can prevent mass shootings.

Widespread gun violence, mass shootings, domestic and family violence, and suicide have wreaked havoc on our communities, and many feel powerless to do anything about it. Domestic violence restraining orders give the power back to survivors and their communities to protect themselves and their families. We encourage you to learn more about the tools and resources available to survivors by visiting our website, and to keep the conversation going about how we can prevent gun violence in our community.

If you want to learn more about domestic violence restraining orders, visit luminaalliance.org/advocacy-legal-services. If you or a loved one are experiencing intimate partner or sexual violence, you can reach out to Lumina Alliance at our 24-hour crisis line at (805) 545-8888, or visit us during regular business hours. Δ

Clementine Ellis is Lumina Alliance's special campaign administrator for the Domestic Violence Fatality Project. Respond with a letter to the editor for publication by emailing it to [email protected].

Readers Poll

Do you think the SLO County Board of Supervisors should have gone against their policy that states funding for independent special districts should not result in a net fiscal loss to the county?

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