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Committee Passes Vainieri Huttle & Verrelli Bill to Notify Victims When Firearms Will be Returned to People with Domestic Violence Charges

Aiming to protect victims of domestic violence from former abusers, Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Anthony Verrelli sponsor a bill that would ensure certain family members and victims are notified when someone charged with domestic violence or subject to an extreme risk protection order will have their firearm returned to them.

Around 4.5 million American women who are still alive have been threatened by a domestic partner with a firearm, while one million of them have actually been shot or fired at by their abuser. Most men who kill their partners do so with a gun, while studies have shown that an abuser’s access to a firearm increases the risk of a woman being killed by 400 percent.

Under the bill (A-3687), the victim of someone charged with domestic violence or a family member who filed an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) against someone must be notified when that individual will have their firearm returned to them.

“Not surprisingly, guns are often used to intimidate and threaten victims of domestic violence,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Abusers will use these dangerous weapons to try to hurt and control their victims, thereby posing an even bigger threat to their partner or family members. Those who are most at risk for violence deserve to know when a firearm will be returned to their abuser, so they can take steps to try to protect themselves.”

Law enforcement officers are allowed to take possession of any weapons owned by a person charged with domestic violence or a person with an ERPO filed against them because a family member believes their possession of a gun would pose a significant risk.

Weapons can be returned to those individuals under certain circumstances – such as when a court determines the domestic violence situation no longer exists, or when a person with an ERPO successfully petitions to have their order terminated.

In those situations, the prosecutor would be required to notify each claimant or victim that the weapon will be returned to the defendant at least ten days before the weapon has been returned.

“Whenever a firearm is returned to someone who very well may use it against a family member or partner, we must prioritize the victim’s safety by notifying them in advance,” said Assemblyman Verrelli (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Although the goal is to keep guns out of an abuser’s hands in the first place, our State must do everything we can to protect victims of domestic violence in any situation where that goal is not possible.”

The legislation was advanced by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday and now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.