At a press conference yesterday, Los Angeles city officials announced that they’re going to get grabby about guns owned by defendants in domestic violence cases. Or rather, as grabby as the law apparently already allows them to be.
Here’s how the Los Angeles Daily News described it:
A new way to deal with those accused of domestic violence was unveiled Wednesday, with the City Attorney’s Office and Los Angeles Police Department seeking to remove guns from those accused of abuse.
“Once someone is arrested for domestic abuse, the LAPD will inform my office, and we will take steps to remove their guns,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said at a City Hall news conference. “Each week in the United States, nine women are killed by handguns. We can do better than that.”
Feuer said the new prosecution protocol developed by his office with advocacy groups over the past six months is designed to reduce the possibility of further violence.
Under current law, those accused of domestic violence are prohibited from owning a weapon. Violators could face additional criminal charges.
There’s some awkwardness in the newspaper’s reporting. This isn’t actually a new way of dealing with domestic violence and the description of “current law” is a bit misleading. The story gives readers the impression that simply being accused of domestic violence is enough to get your guns taken away. Here’s how the Los Angeles Police Department lists the regulations connected to gun possession and domestic violence cases:
12028.5 PC Family Violence/Firearms Seizure
The police at the scene of family violence, involving a threat to human life or physical assault, may take temporary custody of any firearm or deadly weapon in plain sight or by consensual search for the protection of the peace officer or other persons present. The police may retain the weapons up to 72 hours unless the weapons were seized as evidence or for an additional crime.
12021(g) PC Restrictions on Firearm Possession
Persons subject to a restraining order may not obtain, receive, purchase or otherwise acquire a firearm.
The person must know they are subject to the restraining order and the restraining order must contain in bold print that they are prohibited from receiving or purchasing or attempting to receive or purchase a firearm, and the penalties. (This does not apply if a firearm is received as part of a community property settlement).
6389 PC Relinquishment Of Firearms
Prohibits person subject to a Domestic Violence protective order from owning or possessing a firearm while protective order is in effect.
Exemption may be granted if a firearm is a necessary condition of employment. A person may possess only during scheduled work hours and during travel to and from work.
So, the gun grabbing only applies if a judge rules that a protective order is justified and only lasts for the duration of the order. The Daily News reporting makes it appear like the city attorney’s office is going beyond the bounds of the law and snatching guns on the basis of just accusations, but the Los Angeles affiliate of CBS is a little bit more specific in their reporting. What the city says will happen is that the city attorney’s office and the LAPD are going to communicate better on domestic violence cases, so that if a judge does issue a protective order, the city will respond and actually enforce the existing laws and prosecute those who try to bypass it.
Obviously “Wait, this isn’t as bad as you think it is!” should not be taken as an endorsement of these laws. The discussion of the abuse of women seems to conflate the use of a weapon with the existence of the abuse itself, like the gun is somehow a factor in causing the violence and not a tool the abuser selects. Even as the city announces this effort to step up enforcement of these laws, they also noted that domestic violence cases in Los Angeles are actually down.