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Bill to Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Gun Violence Awaits Governor Approval

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TRENTON -- Legislation sponsored Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senator Nia H. Gill and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez to strengthen New Jersey's gun laws and protect victims of domestic violence from gun violence was approved Thursday by both houses of the Legislature.

"We have to do more to protect the lives of women and children. Since we know that having a gun in the home increases the likelihood that a domestic violence situation will result in a tragedy, it is imperative that we act," said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). "By imposing stronger laws that limit abusers' access to firearms we will better protect victims against preventable and, too often, fatal gun violence."

Statistics show that a woman is five times more likely to be murdered by her intimate partner if there is a gun in the home than if there is not, according to the organization Everytown for Gun Safety. In New Jersey, more than half of female homicide victims in 2011 were killed in domestic violence incidents. There were 269 domestic violence homicides in New Jersey from 2003-2012 and nearly one-third of these homicides involved firearms, according to state statistics.

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"There is a very real link between domestic violence deaths and firearms that we cannot ignore. Taking guns out of the hands of abusers will protect victims from additional harm,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic).  “This legislation also will ensure that domestic violence survivors are given information about their rights, including their ability to secure restraining orders and other protections against their abusers.”

Among other provisions, the bill (S-2786/A-4218) would:

  • Require domestic abusers to turn over their firearms while a domestic violence restraining order is in effect, and require the seizure of firearms when an abuser is convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense;
  • Require an abuser's firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun to be suspended during domestic violence restraining orders;
  • Require an abuser's firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun to be revoked if the individual is convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense;
  • Require a search of the state’s central registry of domestic violence reports to determine whether a record of domestic violence exists that would make an applicant for a gun permit ineligible under state law;
  • Provide that firearms seized in furtherance of a restraining order be returned to the defendant if the order is dismissed; and
  • Require that before firearms are returned to a gun owner, in cases where firearms were seized following a domestic violence call, victims be provided information about their right to seek a restraining order against an abuser, and the ability to apply to the court to seek revocation of a firearms purchaser ID card or gun permit.

The Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 49-11-19. The Senate approved it by a vote of 29-1. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

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