This Time I’ll be Bulletproof: Using Ex Parte Firearm Prohibitions to Combat Intimate-Partner Violence

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Aaron Edward Brown is an Associate attorney with Ballard Spahr.

Domestic violence is a serious public health problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), intimate-partner violence affects an estimated 5.5 million people every year in the United States. The CDC also projects that around one in four adult women and one in seven adult men will experience severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. But more concerning than just severe physical violence is the large number of victims who are killed each year by their intimate partner. Currently, about 1,100 victims are killed each year by an intimate partner. Although the United States’ rates of intimate-partner violence are similar to other high income, industrialized countries, our per-capita rate of intimate-partner homicides vastly exceeds all of our peer countries. This disparity is at least partially attributable to the fact that well over fifty percent of all intimate-partner homicides in the United States are committed with a firearm, which is an exceedingly lethal weapon in the hands of an abuser.

This article is a comprehensive review of one of the main types of regulations used to combat intimate-partner violence: ex parte order for protection (“OFP”) firearm prohibitions. Ex parte OFP firearm prohibitions act to curb firearm access by temporarily prohibiting ownership, possession, and purchase of firearms after a victim of domestic violence files a petition seeking an order for protection. In some states, ex parte OFP firearm prohibitions can also allow for mandatory relinquishment or confiscation of firearms after a judicial officer has issued an ex parte OFP. Ex parte OFP firearm prohibitions have the potential to be particularly transformative because their targeted function is to address the immediate safety of a victim of domestic violence before a formal hearing can take place to address the merits of the victim’s claims. This type of immediate intervention can be a lifesaving measure as we now know that the single most dangerous moment for a victim of domestic violence is the point at which he or she leaves his or her abuser.

This article details the various types of ex parte firearm prohibitions and their distinguishing provisions and discusses other closely related gun-violence prevention laws. It concludes by discussing different types of solutions that would expand ex parte OFP firearm prohibitions, including a federal-level ex parte OFP firearm prohibition and a model ex parte firearm statute that can be enacted on the state level.

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