DeKalb County, GA: Community Spotlight

According to the American Journal of Public Health, the presence of a firearm in domestic violence (DV) situations increases the risk of homicide, and endangers victims, other family members, bystanders, and coworkers. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%, and in a household with a history of DV, this risk increases to 2,000%. Furthermore, intimate partner violence (IPV) accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

To reduce this risk, professionals who work in law enforcement and advocacy are creating strategies for effective implementation of firearms surrender orders at all stages of civil, family, and criminal DV cases. In addition, the criminal legal system is working to consistently enforce existing laws and coordinate with community organizations, as well as highlighting effective programs. DeKalb County, Georgia is a community taking action against firearm-related femicide through its State Court Probation program. Under federal law, individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from owning firearms. This prohibition includes the receipt, shipment, possession, transport, or attempt to purchase a firearm.

For DV offenders who possess firearms, the DeKalb County State Court Probation program offers a surrender program, which began in 2014 in conjunction with the DeKalb County Solicitor-General's Office. As a general condition of probation, offenders must immediately call the DeKalb County State Court Probation Department and schedule a time to surrender all firearms, ammunition, and/or concealed weapons permits in their care, custody, or control. The offender must sign an affidavit attesting to their compliance. Under federal law, possessing a firearm after conviction of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime, may result in a penalty of up to ten years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine, under 18 U.S.C. §922(g) (9)). Notably, those sentenced under the Georgia First Offender Act can reclaim their guns after serving their sentences, as their civil rights are restored.

According to the 2016 Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Annual Report, the use of a firearm was the cause of death in 70% of DV-related deaths in Georgia last year. While the DeKalb County State Court Probation program is technically an honor system, the program currently has close to 50 firearms, according to Jennifer Waindle, DeKalb County Probation Supervisor. In addition, DV offenders are held accountable when the program discovers that they did not surrender their firearms. Waindle initially anticipated the surrender of 80-100 firearms per year, but she still sees it as progress in the attempt to prevent femicide, and hopes to inspire other counties to implement similar programs.

Taking Aim at Family Violence

The SMU Dedman School of Law recently published "Taking Aim at Family Violence: A Report on the Dallas County Gun Surrender Program." Written by students Laura Choi, Rachel Elkin, and Monica Harasim, the report explores the effectiveness of the Dallas County Gun Surrender Program. Launched in May 2015, the program aims to provide a safe and secure way for DV offenders to surrender any guns they own. 

According to the report, the program was created in response to a series of DV-related murders committed with guns in Dallas County. Since its launch, the program has collected 60 guns in two years—a fraction of the 1,600 guns originally expected to be collected in that time. Addressing this discrepancy, the report recommends the Dallas County Gun Surrender Program to take the following actions: 

  • Implementing a Memorandum of Understanding between community stakeholders
  • Offering training for Dallas County judges on how to best utilize the Program
  • Creating an office and staff dedicated specifically to Program administration
  • Securing additional Program funding to ensure long-term viability
  • Increasing accountability for non-compliant offenders
  • Increasing community awareness of the Program
  • Considering collaboration with other community advocates, including probation, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and batterer intervention programs.

To view the full report, click here.

Webinar: Implementing a Firearm Surrender Protocol

BWJP is hosting the webinar Implementing a Firearm Surrender Protocol from 2-3:30 CT Thursday, July 20. Research and experience confirm that access to a firearm dramatically increases the risk of lethality in DV cases. This webinar will address applicable federal law, including recent U.S. Supreme Court cases and their application to DV cases handled on a state level. Additionally, this webinar will include lessons learned from launching DV firearm reduction initiatives in DeKalb County, Georgia and an exchange of ideas from a multi-agency perspective on how to address the surrender of firearms in both the criminal and civil justice systems. The intended audience is anyone who is part of a fatality review team, family violence task force, DV intervention program providers, and the civil and criminal justice system partners.

This webinar will be presented by Jennifer Waindle, DeKalb County Probation Supervisor, and Jenny Stolarski, Chief Assistant Solicitor General for DeKalb County. For details or to register, click here.