Health Board approves coordination of firearm surrender in domestic violence situations

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and Metropolitan King County Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski introduced a resolution to the Seattle-King County Board of Health Thursday to call for a coordinated local response to improve King County’s compliance with State law that requires domestic violence offenders surrender their firearms when they have protection orders issued against them.

The Board approved the resolution unanimously. Early this year, the Councilmembers learned of inconsistencies in the implementation of the law in King County, which led to a coordinated approach through the Board of Health.

In 2014, Governor Inslee signed HB 1840, requiring domestic violence perpetrators who are subject to no-contact orders, protection orders, and restraining orders to temporarily surrender their firearms or other dangerous weapons. Recently, a review found that, in a 3 month timeframe in 2015, of the 94 cases where an affidavit of surrender (or non-surrender) was due to the court, only 12 respondents complied with filing the required declaration.

“We need a centralized coordinator to set up internal infrastructure to automate the surrender process. We’re now seeking funds to hire a Program Coordinator to create unified protocols and processes for temporary removal of firearms in domestic violence situations” said Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, Vice Chair of the Board of Health. “Recognizing we must act together as a County and a City to improve the safety of domestic violence survivors, I have collaborated with our King County Prosecuting Attorney, the Chief of the Seattle Police Department, and with the Director of Seattle-King County Public Health, and I’m thankful how generous, engaging and compassionate they’ve all been.”

“Our legislature passed a great law, but there is much more we should be doing in King County to implement it,” said King County Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowksi, Chair of the Board of Health. 
“Roughly one-quarter of abusers who kill their spouses had been served with a protection order. Today’s action will strengthen our commitment to remove firearms from abusers who are subject to no-contact orders, protection orders, and restraining orders. Plain and simple, this action will save lives.”

As a coordinated approach is developed, all parties will affirmatively utilize a race and social justice lens by including stakeholders from racial and ethnic communities disparately impacted by domestic violence.

In Washington State, domestic violence homicide perpetrators use guns more often than all other weapons combined, according to the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than are women in other high income countries.

“The law allows courts to remove firearms from situations of chronic domestic violence because research shows that women are five times more likely to be murdered when guns are in the home,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. “Building a seamless process to give effect to those judicial orders is the single most important thing we can do this year to save lives in King County,” he added.


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