Bill to restrict gun rights for domestic abusers

n response to a Waukesha woman’s killing by her abuser, a Wisconsin legislator plans to introduce a bill to prevent domestic violence offenders from owning guns while under a restraining order.

Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, plans to introduce legislation this fall to force offenders under restraining orders related to domestic or child abuse to give up their firearms within 48 hours of the court’s issuance.

Bies said the bill would institute a specific protocol for gun surrenders and is a reasonable and proven way to protect against domestic violence homicides.

A Waukesha woman’s death at the hands of her boyfriend, who possessed a gun while under a restraining order for domestic abuse, motivated him to introduce the bill, Bies added.

Tony Gibart, public policy coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, said his organization supports the bill because it would help domestic abuse victims.

“This bill will give victims the peace of mind that their safety is being taken seriously,” he said.

Current law states the domestic violence offender is required to surrender any and all firearms when a judge issues a restraining order for domestic or child abuse, but little follow up is done by law enforcement or the courts after the ruling, Bies said.

“Wisconsin needs to close this gap in our laws and provide a better opportunity to prevent the next domestic violence tragedy,” he said.

He added he wants to make sure police and court procedures are strengthened under this law. A survey conducted by sheriff departments statewide found 70 percent of counties did not follow up to ensure offenders did not possess weapons in compliance with their restraining order.

Four counties participated in pilot programs that consistently used the court procedures to follow up with abusers, Bies said.

“[County residents] said the procedures made them feel safer, gave them peace of mind and enhanced their actual safety,” Bies said.

Gibart said the bill is a simple way to reinforce the purpose and intent of a restraining order.

“It really takes a basic step to what needs to be done around firearm surrender,” Gibart said. “It makes [the restraining order] more than a piece of paper.”

Jeff Nass, president for Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs, and Educators, Inc., an organization charted by the National Rifle Association, said he believes the bill has “a lot of gray area” on the procedure in which law enforcement and courts would follow up with abusers.

Since the state does not require registration of guns, obtaining all the offender’s firearms could be more difficult, Nass said.

“If the offender has more guns than they say, how do you prove it?” Nass said.

He said this bill could also harm innocent victims because if an offender ever filed a restraining order against the victim, victims would be left unarmed and less able to defend themselves.

The bill will be introduced to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice. It is currently being circulated for co-sponsors.

Bies said the bill has gained support from both sides of the aisle and he hopes the bill will reach an Assembly vote by the end of this year.