Federal law prohibits respondents in Orders for Protection from possessing firearms since the passage in 1994 of the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Many states, Wisconsin included, have also legislated prohibitions similar to the federal prohibition. Enforcement of these prohibitions, however, has been an ongoing problem. Wisconsin not only developed clear protocols to facilitate enforcement of firearm surrender, but also piloted the protocols in four counties and evaluated the process. In 2014 these protocols became a legislated mandate. 

The Problem

Despite federal and state prohibitions, firearms continue to be used in the homicides of women by their intimate partners. In 2010 in Wisconsin, at least 6 perpetrators who used a gun should not have had access to firearms under either felony or domestic abuse-related convictions or an active domestic abuse injunction. End Abuse Wisconsin's most recent Domestic Violence Homicide Report states that in 2013, firearms were still the weapon of choice in 20 of the 39 homicides. In at least seven of these domestic violence shooting deaths, the gunmen were legally prohibited from possessing firearms.

First Steps to Address the Problem

In 2009, a subcommittee of the Wisconsin Governor's Council on Domestic Violence completed draft law enforcement and judicial procedures to enforce firearm surrender after an injunction (civil protection order) was issued. The subcommittee was multi-disciplinary, including judges, advocates, law enforcement, court clerks, and prosecutors. Four counties in central Wisconsin agreed to pilot the surrender procedures beginning in 2010.  Dr. Steve Brandl, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, conducted an evaluation in March of 2012. 

Read more about Wisconsin's Firearms Surrender Protocol.

Webinar Recording: Surrender, Storage, and Return of Firearms in CPO Cases: The Wisconsin Project 

Date: March 19, 2015

Presenters:  Danielle Long, Criminal Justice Program Analyst for WI dept. of Justice, Dave Keck, Winnebago County Court Commissioner, Amber Person, Circuit Court Policy and Procedures Advisor, Director of State Courts-Office of Court Operations, and Rochelle Skorlinski, Evidence and Records Coordinator, Winnebago County Sheriff's Office

Description: Wisconsin recently enacted legislation intended to ensure that respondents subject to protection orders comply with the firearm surrender requirements. Under Wisconsin law, respondents subject to a domestic abuse or child abuse injunction are automatically required to surrender firearms they own or possesses. Wisconsin created a protocol to assist the courts and law enforcement with enforcing state and federal firearms surrender laws. In 2010 Wisconsin conducted a pilot in 4 Wisconsin counties to test the protocol. This protocol was signed in to law in April, 2014. This session will provide an overview of Wisconsin's process for effectively enforcing firearm surrender in civil protection order cases and a step by step model to help other states tailor and adopt similar practices to better enforce firearm surrender laws. Listen now!

Resources from BWJP's Military & Veterans Advocacy Program

BWJP's Military & Veterans Advocacy Program provides specialized training, technical assistance and resources to improve outcomes for individual military-related intimate partner violence (IPV) and military sexual assault survivors and their families. Funded through a grant from the Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women, the program consists of a number of program-specific activities and materials.

For advocates:

The Military-Civilian Advocate Resource Network and Listserv - Includes a moderated email listserv that provides advocates with announcements on trainings, publications, news, etc. and facilitates networking and consultation requests. 

Understanding the Military Response to Domestic Violence - Tools for Civilian Advocates is designed to assist civilian advocates who are working with both active duty victims and partners of active duty servicemembers and help with responding to the uniquely challenging needs of this population of survivors.

The Victim Advocate Guide - Intimate Partner Violence and Combat Experience provides information on military-related stress reactions and co-occurring conditions and their relationship to IPV in order to provide effective information and referrals to victims.

For legal professionals:

The Military-Related Legal Technical Assistance (TA) Project and Listserv - This project's moderated email listserv targets information of interest to attorneys and other legal professionals representing military-related IPV victims and survivors. 

Representing Victims of Intimate Partner Violence Connected with the Military - A Handbook for Civil Attorneys contains legal and military policy information needed by civil attorneys representing military-related victims and survivors of IPV.

For all:

Our self-paced eLearning course, Safety at Home - Intimate Partner Violence, Military Personnel, and Veterans, consists of mini-lectures, case studies, video clips, practice scenarios, and opportunities for self-assessment to test mastery of course content. 

BWJP's Military-Civilian Coordinated Community Response demonstration project report, Collaborating for Safety: Coordinating the Military and Civilian Response to Domestic Violence Elements and Tools

Webinar Recordings - Over 30 webinars are available on-demand which cover military-related intimate partner violence, military sexual assault, and related advocacy and legal issues. 

For more information about the program and for technical assistance requests, please contact Brian Clubb, Military & Veterans Advocacy Program Coordinator, at bclubb@bwjp.org