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For immediate release Friday, February 26, 2010.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699 or rbrammer@ag.state.ia.us.

Miller Urges House: Prohibit Domestic Abusers from Possessing Guns

A.G. and others ask lawmakers to prohibit possession of firearms by persons convicted of domestic abuse assault or under a domestic abuse restraining order.

Attorney General Tom Miller is urging the Iowa House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Iowa Senate and pass legislation to prohibit possession of firearms by persons convicted of domestic abuse assault or persons under a domestic abuse restraining order. The Senate passed the legislation late Thursday by a bi-partisan vote of 36-11.

“This law would help prevent women, men and children from being terrorized, maimed and killed by violent domestic abusers,” Miller said. “It would only remove guns from domestic abusers.”

Miller made the appeal at a news conference Friday at the Attorney General’s Office, joined by Sergeant Lori Neely of the D.M. Police Department, Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald, and Laurie Schipper, Director of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

no guns for domestic abusersAttorney General Tom Miller, joined by Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald and Des Moines Police Sergeant Lori Neely [to left of Miller], and Laurie Schipper, Director of Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and ICADV advocates [right of Miller.]

Miller showed dramatic footage of an Iowa woman being terrorized at gunpoint by her estranged husband – who set up the camera to shoot the video. “He was under a domestic abuse restraining order but was not prohibited from possessing the firearm,” Miller said. “This is a perfect example of why we need this law.” Ultimately, the woman was not killed or injured in the incident, and she consented to the video being shown. (See the video.)

Miller said that 205 Iowans were killed in domestic abuse murders since 1995 – and 111 of those were killed by firearms, or 54%. Miller also noted that a major percentage – usually over one-fourth – of all Iowa murders are in domestic violence situations. “We must take action to reduce this kind of domestic terrorism,” he said. [Go to stats and stories about domestic violence gun victims.]

“As illustrated by the Senate vote, this is a non-partisan, public safety issue,” Miller said.

“This law will not take guns away from law-abiding citizens,” he said. “It will only take guns from domestic abusers. If a gun-owner has a no-contact order and then the restraining order expires, then the person will be able to possess a gun again.”

Possession of firearms by domestic abusers already is prohibited by federal law. But Miller said Iowa law enforcement officials are reluctant to enforce federal law and that federal officials and federal courts do not have the capacity to handle more than a tiny fraction of the violations of the federal law. A state law similar to the federal law (and similar to laws now in effect in other states) will require the removal of firearms from ALL domestic abusers.

Misinformation set straight:

Miller said there has been some misinformation disseminated about the legislation, and he said several points should be made clear:

First, firearms will not be taken away in the context of temporary no-contact orders. Firearms can only be taken away after a no-contact order is issued by a judge after adequate notice to all parties and a hearing where all parties have the opportunity to present evidence.

Second, at the hearing on the no-contact order, the judge sets a date certain by which the firearms must be relinquished and the individual involved is given due notice of this date.

Third, when the disqualification is lifted, the firearms must be returned to the individual. In the case of protective orders, the firearms must be returned five days after the protective order is no longer in effect. In the case of a conviction of domestic abuse, the firearms must be returned if the conviction is vacated or the person’s rights have been restored under state law.

Fourth, as an alternative to relinquishing the firearms to law enforcement, the individual may transfer the firearms to a qualified person designated by the judge or sell the firearms.

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Link to “Heather-terrorized” video (from 2007)

Link to Heather’s Story