PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new study has found that domestic abusers in Rhode Island are rarely required to give up their firearms, even when federal law prohibits having them during an active restraining order.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun violence prevention organization, examined 18,000 restraining orders from 2012 and 2014 and found only about 5 percent of domestic abusers with access to guns were ordered to turn them in.
“Whats really frustrating and concerning is that this report shows that it’s not happening as often as it could be happening,” said Deborah DeBare from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “I was quite astounded and upset.”
- Special Report: Warning signs indicate when domestic violence could turn deadly
- Interactive: Danger assessment risk factors among murder victims and abused women
- Related: Advocate: Watch for signs of domestic abuse
The coalition says an average of 3,000 victims take out restraining orders against their abusers every year in Rhode Island.
Under federal law, abusers cannot buy or have a gun while the restraining order is active, but the state does not require them to turn them over. DeBare said this legal loophole puts victims at risk.
“It’s incredibly scary to think that for many victims, they’re going back to their community and their home and they’re still going to be living with fear that their abuser has access to firearms,” she said.
The study comes as both the House and Senate consider a pair of bills that would require abusers to turn in their firearms to law enforcement or gun dealers during their restraining orders.
DeBare believes if the legislation saves just one life – then it’s worth enacting.
According to the study, 15 other states have already closed the loophole left by federal law, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.