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Communities around the country are taking thoughtful and decisive actions to disarm domestic violence offenders who are subject to federal, state and Tribal firearm prohibitions.

While laws have been put into place to keep guns out of the hands of the most dangerous domestic violence offenders, the complexity of the laws and lack of guidance on implementation led to inconsistent enforcement across the county. Therefore, it is of enormous value when jurisdictions such as San Mateo County, CA, the State of Wisconsin and DeKalb County, GA, provide leadership to other communities on implementation and enforcement.

BWJP’s new Safer Families, Safer Communities website, a project of the new National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center, provides a national platform for these and other stand-out communities to showcase their important efforts. San Mateo's efforts detailed here demonstrate how consistent procedures, practices, and training created change for the community and enhanced safety for victims.

San Mateo, California Leads the Way with Strong Laws and Effective Enforcement 

California leads the nation with some of the strictest laws on guns. Since 2004, anyone served with a temporary protective order is given only 24 hours to turn over any weapons to local law enforcement or sell them to a licensed gun dealer. Even with some of the toughest gun surrender laws on the books, enforcement of the legislation was uneven. One community set out to change that.

In 2006, the state set up pilot programs to increase enforcement in San Mateo County, just outside of San Francisco, and Butte County, a largely rural area north of Sacramento. In 2007, the San Mateo Sheriff created the Domestic Violence Firearms Compliance Unit to track, investigate and enforce Domestic Violence Protective Court Orders directing the seizure and storage of surrendered firearms. The money for the original program dried up in 2010, however, San Mateo sought alternate funding to continue the program because it believed that the program was saving lives.

One key component of San Mateo’s efforts is their gate keeper, Detective Bridgette Heffelfinger, a San Mateo deputy sheriff in the Domestic Violence Firearms Compliance Unit. Everyday Detective Heffelfinger scans the civil protective orders coming out of family court, looking for any mention of guns and violence. She also checks to see if those incidents have ever been reported to law enforcement. If the reports are unclear she will contact the person protected by the order to find out more. This also allows Detective Heffelfinger to make a personal connection with the victim and provide referrals to available services. If the reports clearly indicate use, presence, or threat of firearms, Deputy Heffelfinger has good grounds to ask the court for a search warrant to confiscate the firearms if they haven’t been properly surrendered.

The Domestic Violence Firearms Compliance Unit in conjunction with Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse (CORA) developed a training program for local law enforcement and partnering agencies to educate on the pilot project procedures and the relevant firearms and domestic violence issues. Jim Granucci, a former police chief, now with CORA, provides training to law enforcement officers. In San Mateo county, there are 20 different law enforcement agencies. Keeping all of those agencies informed on law and policy changes as well as making sure new recruits understand the dynamics of domestic violence falls into the capable hands of Jim Granucci. Through CORA, Jim offers a 90 minute training for all new officers on domestic violence. Additionally he offers on-going POST training that includes having a survivor of domestic violence speak to the officers and answer their questions. He also attends briefings at the 20 agencies to update officers in the field on gun law changes.

New Website Promotes Enforcement of Firearms Restrictions in Domestic Violence Cases

BWJP is pleased to announce the launch of the website: Safer Families, Safer Communities, at www.preventdvgunviolence.org, which will be managed by BWJP’s new National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The website will promote the efforts of communities around the country to prevent domestic violence-related homicides through comprehensive implementation and enforcement of domestic violence-related firearm prohibitions at all levels of government. 

Visitors to the website will learn about effective interventions in both criminal and civil domestic violence cases that can decrease the risk posed by dangerous domestic-violence offenders with access to firearms. Courts and communities can undertake a number of practical steps to facilitate enforcement of federal prohibitions and prevent purchases of firearms by prohibited domestic violence offenders. Website content includes comprehensive strategies and resources, including policies, protocols, and useful forms, that can enhance implementation of state, Tribal, and federal firearms prohibitions. Other features include descriptions of model community efforts, highlights of related news and policy developments, and summaries of relevant legal and social science research. 

Further expansion of the website will be an ongoing activity of the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center, which will also provide training and technical assistance, build a comprehensive library of information and tools on this issue, develop an emergency response to support communities after a domestic violence-related firearms tragedy, and create a peer mentor system that connects communities which have successfully implemented firearm enforcement procedures with communities that seek to do so. To successfully accomplish these goals, BWJP has engaged the support of a strong group of partners: National Indian Women’s Resource Center, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, End Abuse Wisconsin, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Safe Horizons, AEquitas, National Network to End Domestic Violence, and researcher April Zeoli, Ph.D. BWJP and its partners sincerely hope that through this effort communities will gain the information, training and support necessary to implement effective enforcement mechanisms that disarm domestic violence offenders.

BWJP Seeks Project Director, National Center on Domestic Violence & Firearms

Organization
The Battered Women's Justice Project (BWJP) is a national resource center on the civil and criminal justice system response to intimate partner violence (IPV). Under Office on Violence Against Women funding, BWJP will be organizing a resource center on firearms and domestic violence (DV) to promote policies and practices that effectively implement DV-related restrictions on access to firearms.

Position & Location
Project Director, full-time, supervised by the Legal Policy Director. Location: Minneapolis preferred.

Responsibilities

Management

  • Develop and manage a national effort to improve the implementation and enforcement of DV-related firearms by communities, the states and the federal government.
  • Lead the Project’s Steering Committee that will guide the project’s development.
  • Maintain accurate records and prepare periodic reports to funders.

Collaboration and Communication

  • Collaborate with a diverse group of partners to achieve the project’s objectives, including the development of an emergency response to communities experiencing DV-related homicides involving firearms.
  • Develop content and maintain a robust website.
  • Participate in the national dialogue about the intersection of firearms and IPV.

Policy

  • Monitor emerging social science research, and legal and public policy developments nationwide related to this topic.
  • Lead the Project’s Steering Committee that will guide the project’s development.
  • Maintain accurate records and prepare periodic reports to funders.

Training & Technical Assistance

  • Organize and moderate webinars or other training events.
  • Present at local/state/tribal or national conferences.
  • Develop and maintain a network of subject matter experts to serve as resources on this topic. 
  • Consult with other allied organizations or government agencies on related local or national projects, upon request.

Qualifications Required

  • Substantial experience in justice system reform work related to addressing violence against women preferred. Specific policy work related to firearms and domestic violence desired.
  •  Related education in public policy, macro-level social work, criminal justice studies, or law. 
  • Outstanding ability to apply critical thinking and an intersectional analysis to identify and promote effective policies and practices.
  • Demonstrated understanding of and commitment to issues of cultural diversity as they pertain to prevention, intervention, and services, as well as to addressing the needs of underserved communities.
  • Demonstrated experience in program development and implementation.
  • Experience in developing and conducting training events; experience with training justice personnel and advocates desirable.
  • Demonstrated, exceptional oral communication and writing skills.
  • Ability to work well with diverse groups and to work effectively as part of a team.
  • Willingness and ability to travel nationwide on a regular basis.

Salary

DOQ in competitive non-profit services range, plus individual/family health, dental, life, and ST/LT disability insurance, vacation, sick leave, and holiday hours.

Application

Send cover letter and resume by October 21, 2016, to technicalassistance@bwjp.org or the Battered Women’s Justice Project, 1801 Nicollet Ave. So., Suite 102, Minneapolis, MN 55403.