Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

August 10, 2013

Restraining orders don't go far enough

Consider the following scenario: A woman ends an abusive relationship with a boyfriend. She successfully applies for a permanent restraining order against him, and, as the law stands, a period of one to two weeks passes before that application gets a hearing. In the meantime, the woman receives only a temporary restraining order against her boyfriend, who is notified of her application and, with a proven history of violence, might seek revenge. In 33 states, that boyfriend is legally allowed to purchase a firearm before the restraining order on him becomes permanent.

All too often, we know how that story ends. In 2010, two-thirds of the women shot and killed in the United States were killed by an intimate partner, and the presence of guns in situations of domestic violence increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.

Common sense says that people under temporary restraining orders shouldn’t be able to buy guns in the brief period before those restraining orders become permanent. Why does the law still allow such purchases in a significant majority of states?

Connecticut’s senators, Richard Blumenthal, D, and Chris Murphy, D, are working to close that perplexing loophole. The Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, which they plan to introduce next month, would impose a consistent standard across the nation to ban the sale of firearms to those with temporary restraining orders. This would make it more difficult for abusers to get access to guns in the volatile period between the time their partners take action to protect themselves and the time that protection is officially granted. The New York Times reported in March that at least five women in Washington state have been shot and killed over the past decade by an intimate partner in that limbo period — and that’s just one state. This bill might have saved their lives, and it will save lives if it is passed.

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