Study: Laws forcing domestic abusers to surrender guns linked to fewer homicides

Laws requiring people convicted of domestic violence or those under domestic violence restraining orders to surrender their guns has been linked to lower rates of domestic homicide, a new study suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers at five different institutions and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, took a look at intimate-partner homicide rates from 1991 to 2015 and concluded they are on average 9.7 percent lower in states with gun-surrender domestic violence laws when compared to states without those laws. The study also found firearm-related, intimate-partner homicide rates to be 14 percent lower in states with gun-relinquishment laws.

The researchers noted that an overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims are female and around half of intimate-partner homicides are committed with firearms, Reuters reported in a summary of the study. More than 1,800 people are killed in intimate-partner homicides every year in the U.S.

Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health, a senior author on the study, argued that even though federal law prohibits domestic abusers from possessing guns, states can better enforce those regulations if such laws exist at the state-level as well.

Siegel also noted that federal law does not require domestic violence offenders to surrender firearms already in their possession. This proved to be an important distinction for the study, as the researchers concluded that laws only prohibiting possession and not requiring the surrendering of guns did not lower intimate-partner homicide rates in a significant way. While 26 states prohibited domestic abusers from possessing guns, only 11 of those states explicitly required them to surrender firearms and other weapons.

The researchers examined data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the study and took a look at big-picture trends in addition to their state-by-state analysis. Overall, researchers found that intimate-partner homicide rates have gone down from 1.19 victims for every 100,000 people in 1991 to 0.60 victims for every 100,000 people by 2015. Firearms-related intimate-partner homicide rates have also declined from 0.68 to 0.36 victims for every 100,000 people.

The study authors did admit to limitations in their research, noting that states with more restrictive gun laws in general could affect intimate-partner homicide rates in different ways that other, less-restrictive states. They also noted that their analysis did not control for state-by-state differences in law implementation.

Even so, the researchers still concluded that their study showed a clear link between gun-relinquishment laws and lower rates of intimate-partner homicide and called on lawmakers to enact similar policies and law enforcement to better enforce those laws that already exist.