Bill would require police to confiscate guns when responding to an alleged domestic-violence call

Emma Epperly
WNPA Olympia News Bureau

A bill to confiscate firearms during domestic violence calls passed out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee today.
The bill was previously passed, 60-38, on March 5 by the House of Representatives. All those voting in opposition were Republicans.
Sponsor Rep. Laurie Jenkins, D-Tacoma, testified in support of the bill Monday, saying the goal is to reduce the heightened risk tby the presence of a firearm at a domestic violence call location.
A person is five times more likely to be murdered in a domestic violence situation if a firearm is present, Jenkins said.
“In addition to the increased homicide risks, there is really strong evidence that batterers use firearms as kind of tools as terror and intimidation with regard to their children and their partners,” she said.
Jenkins also cited a state Institute of Public Policy finding that domestic violence is the greatest predictor of criminal acts and the single biggest predictor of violent crime.
House Bill 1225 would modify existing regulations regarding the confiscation of a firearm.
Under current law, law enforcement agencies have notification protocols that allow family or household members to request notification when guns are returned. For the firearm to be returned under current law, it must be 24 hours from the time of confiscation.
H.B. 1225 would increase minimum confiscation time to five business days. It would also require someone accused of domestic violence to surrender any conceal-carry permit.
Law enforcement would also check that an individual is in compliance with state law and procedures regarding gun ownership eligibility before getting their firearm back, under the bill. Law enforcement would also be required to give potential domestic violence victims information on seeing a confiscation order, along with prohibiting an alleged abuser from possessing and accessing firearms.
Pam Crone, of Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, cited firearms data in testimony supporting the bill.
“Domestic violence homicide perpetrators use guns more than all other weapons combined,” Crone said. “Between 1997 and 2014, 54 percent of the 678 of the domestic violence homicides in Washington were committed with firearms.”
Crone called the measures in HB 1225, “important life-saving protections."
Under the bill, officers would also be required to separate parties involved in a domestic violence call and ask if there are firearms or ammunition and if coercive or threatening use of firearms previously happened. The alleged use or threat would then become part of the information considered concerning the defendant’s release or issuance of a no-contact order.
David Martin from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office testified in support of the bill.
“Domestic violence offenders who have access to firearms are at the highest risk to their victims, their children, police, the public and themselves with rampant suicide,” Martin said. “The most important thing we can do to prevent fatalities is to temporarily remove the firearm from a DV scene when there is a constitutional and legal basis to do so.”
Martin used the supplemental form used at the over 10,000 domestic violence incidents in the county each year. The form has a group of firearm questions that are what Martin calls a “best practice,” that he says should be required state-wide.
Sen. Mike Padden, R- Spokane Valley, opposed moving the bill out of committee. Padden noted his concern that a victim would not be able to defend themselves without a firearm.