Henderson v. U.S. (13-1487): Unresolved Questions About Surrendered Firearms

Poised to address another of the many legal tensions that arise in the context of firearm prohibitions and individual property rights, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari earlier this week in the case of Henderson v. U.S. (2014 WL 292169, unpub'd). In Henderson a defendant challenges the 11th Circuit's refusal to recognize certain property rights to surrendered firearms that were not involved in the underlying criminal case when the individual is a prohibited person under 18 U.S.C. §922(g).The outcome of this case will likely have direct and far-reaching effects on efforts that jurisdictions can take to enforce firearms surrender in domestic violence cases.

View a summary of Henderson v. U.S. and the legal arguments presented by the parties.

Jurisdictions across the country continue to struggle with implementing effective protocols and procedures to safely secure firearms in domestic violence cases. Despite standard protection order language directing respondents to surrender firearms, as well as state and federal firearms prohibitions for domestic violence convictions, many abusers manage to maintain possession of existing firearms and even purchase new ones. In those jurisdictions that have taken steps to actively enforce these prohibitions, many questions still remain:

  1. How does law enforcement determine if a prohibited abuser has firearms and how many?
  2. How do law enforcement and courts ensure complete surrender when an abuser has given firearms to another individual?
  3. Who has responsibility for storage of seized or surrendered firearms, for how long, and at what cost?
  4. What procedures should be implemented to return firearms when an abuser's possession is no longer prohibited?

The Battered Women's Justice Project, with its partners: the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and AEquitas - The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women, received a technical assistance grant from the Office on Violence Against Women to assist communities wrestling with these types of questions. In an effort to provide meaningful assistance to communities, BWJP is identifying and promoting practices and procedures for successfully enforcing existing federal, state, tribal and local firearm prohibitions in domestic violence-related cases.

Currently, BWJP is seeking communities and individuals demonstrating capacity and leadership in this arena. Please contact Kristine Lizdas (klizdas@bwjp.org), Managing Attorney at the Battered Women's Justice Project, if you know a jurisdiction or individual that has made meaningful strides in enforcement.

Find out more about the Enforcing Domestic Violence Firearms Prohibitions Technical Assistance Project.


The Duluth Model Wins International Prize for Best Policy Worldwide

Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP) of Duluth, MN, was awarded the 2014 Future Policy Award for Ending Violence against Women and Girls by World Future Council, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women. BWJP joins our co-workers at DAIP in celebrating this recognition of their outstanding policy and coordination efforts, known world-wide as the Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to domestic violence, originally developed by Michael Paymar and the late Ellen Pence.

From DAIP's website: "The Duluth Model won the Gold Award for prioritizing the safety and autonomy of survivors while holding perpetrators accountable through community-wide coordinated response, including a unique partnership between non-profit and government agencies. This approach to tackling violence against women has inspired violence protection law implementation and the creation of batterer intervention programs in the United States and around the world, including in countries such as Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, Romania, and Australia."

For more information, please visit DAIP's website.