King County executive submits proposal to get guns away from domestic violence abusers

  • Thursday, September 14, 2017 12:59pm
  • News
King County Executive Dow Constantine.

King County Executive Dow Constantine.

In a supplemental budget request, King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed an additional $650,000 for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office to better enforce court orders to surrender weapons when civil protection orders are issued.

The additional funding would help increase enforcement of orders to surrender weapons and protection orders, including extreme risk protection orders.

“For too long, those seeking protection from their abusers have been left wondering whether the system is doing all it can to keep them safe,” Constantine said in a Thursday media release. “It should be simple and consistent: when there’s a protection order, the guns should be removed. By making sure we have the tools and resources to vigorously enforce laws already on the books, we live up to our commitment to protect all those who seek to escape domestic violence and begin a new life.”

An estimated 4.5 million women in the United States have been threatened with a gun held by their intimate partner, according to the county media release. When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, the woman is five times more likely to be murdered. In 54 percent of domestic violence homicides in Washington between 2006 and 2015, the defendant had previously been ordered to surrender firearms.

After years of advocacy from survivors and families, the Legislature in 2014 unanimously strengthened federal laws prohibiting domestic violence abusers from having access to weapons when certain protection orders are issued by superior courts, district courts or municipal courts.

However, no resources were provided to implement the law. Available data shows that very few firearms are being surrendered, and enforcement is sporadic.

Last year, the King County Board of Health unanimously passed a resolution supporting a review of potential new actions to more effectively keep victims safe.

Led by Judge Anne Levinson (retired), a work group recommended best practices for enforcing these orders across all jurisdictions in King County, and establishing a new multi-jurisdictional, regional team that will manage the data entry, service, tracking, enforcement of the orders and the receipt, storage and return of surrendered firearms.

The executive’s funding request to the King County Council would support four new positions within the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office: a firearms prosecutor, a victim advocate, a paralegal, and a staff person to help quickly resolve problematic orders and provide additional information to the court. The request would also support two positions in the Sheriff’s Office – a detective and records specialist who will be assigned to the team.

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