Lagana Introduces Bill to Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Gun Violence

(38th LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT) – Assemblyman Joseph Lagana has introduced legislation to enhance protections for domestic violence victims by requiring attackers to surrender their firearms while a final domestic violence restraining order is in effect or when they are convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense.
The bill (A-4218) also requires firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase handguns to be revoked if the holder of the card or permit is convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense.
It further requires cross-referencing of records to assist in determining whether the alleged attacker owns a firearm and in removing those firearms.
“The facts surrounding domestic violence are nightmarish,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Data shows more than half of the women who are murdered are killed with a gun, and that most of those were killed by a male partner in the course of an argument. New Jersey has strong gun safety laws, and the changes we seek in this bill are just plain common sense steps needed to protect abuse victims. It will make for a safer New Jersey.”
Specifically, the bill revises the law governing seizure of firearms at the scene of a domestic violence incident by requiring the prosecutor to inform the victim of the availability of restraining orders and the ability to seek revocation of the defendant’s card or permit before returning a firearm to a defendant.
“We clearly need to do more to combat the scourge of domestic violence,” Lagana said. “Domestic violence and guns are a frightening mix. We cannot stand idle while simple steps such as these can help protect women and children trapped in abusive situations. Keeping guns away from abusers will, quite simply, save lives.”
The bill revises the law regarding domestic violence crimes and offenses by:
· Requiring the sentencing court to inform defendants convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense that they are prohibited from possessing a firearm and order the defendant to surrender firearms, firearms purchaser identification cards, and permits to purchase a handgun to a law enforcement officer or a licensed retail dealer of firearms within 24 hours. The defendant is required to provide the court with a receipt evidencing the surrender.
· Requiring firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to be revoked upon conviction and that the Superintendent of State Police and the issuing licensing authority be notified of the revocation.
The bill revises the laws governing temporary and final restraining orders issued pursuant to the provisions of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 by:
· Requiring the form for filing a domestic violence complaint to designate space for the victim to provide information about the defendant’s access to firearms.
· Requiring a final restraining order to prohibit the defendant from possessing a firearm and requiring the defendant to immediately surrender firearms, firearms purchaser identification cards, and permits to purchase a handgun to the law enforcement officers serving the order or a licensed retail dealer of firearms. The defendant is required to provide the court with a receipt evidencing the surrender.
· Requiring the law enforcement officer to properly store surrendered or removed firearms and authorizing the officer to charge the defendant a fee for storage.
· Requiring suspension of firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase handguns during the order and requiring the court to notify the Superintendent of State Police and the issuing licensing authority of the suspension.
· Requiring the court to make a reasonable search of records of firearm ownership before issuing an order.
· Requiring surrendered or removed firearms, cards, or permits to be returned to the defendant upon expiration of the order, unless the defendant is subject to a disqualifying disability.
Current law governing firearms licensing requirements is revised by:
· Requiring law enforcement to search the state’s central registry of domestic violence reports before issuing a firearm card or permit.
· Requiring records relating to issuance of firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun, as well as firearms purchase records, to be made available to law enforcement and the courts to enforce the State’s domestic violence laws. Current law requires these records to be sent to certain law enforcement agencies, but does not specify how these records may be used.
· Requiring a law enforcement officer or prosecutor in possession of any firearms, cards, or permits surrendered or removed in whole or in part because of domestic violence to prepare an inventory of these items, cross-reference the inventory with records of firearm ownership, and if there are discrepancies, take appropriate action to ensure the defendant does not have access to a firearm.