Gun violence – “Firearm Relinquishment Law And Implementation Could Actually Save Lives”

Note: This article on gun violence was co-authored by Kristina Bilowus of Findling Law, PLC.  Kristina’s article was accepted for publication in the April 2018 State Bar of Michigan Family Bar Journal, an academic journal for divorce and family law practitioners in the State of Michigan.

Firearm Relinquishment Law And Implementation Could Actually Save Lives

Gun violence is as prevalent a discussion as any these days. The tragedies that result from easy access and ability to possess firearms have alarmed our communities. At all levels of state and federal government, calls to action have ensued. Firearm use coupled with domestic violence is exceptionally lethal. In 2016, Michigan experienced ninety-three domestic violence specific incidents resulting in murder/voluntary non-negligent manslaughter, and 1,273 incidents wherein a domestic partner used or possessed a firearm/handgun.1 With domestic violence offenders demonstrating some of the highest recidivism rates for a variety of violent crimes and victim injuries, it is hard to understand why offenders still have access to firearms.2

While the disturbing truth indicates easy access to firearms for offenders, certain measures can be taken to minimize the risk. In Michigan, options for reducing gun-related incidents in connection with domestic violence encounters are already in existence. Firearm relinquishment provisions of ex parte personal protection orders are mechanisms to prevent offenders’ access to deadly weapons. Unfortunately, these provisions are discretionary, not mandatory. According to a recent study, the systematic implementation of firearm relinquishment requirements at the point when a court makes the reasonable cause determination that an ex parte personal protection order should issue could result in a reduction in the total number of intimate partner deaths.3

In this study, Dr. April Zeoli of Michigan State University, along with contributing researchers, found that the multi-state impact of enforcing firearm prohibition laws resulting from domestic violence restraining orders associated with a reduction in intimate partner homicides when those orders were ex parte and involved dating partners.4 Additional decreases of fatalities were found in states with “permit-to-purchase” laws, and when those convicted of violent misdemeanors were prohibited from access to firearms, similar to the laws in Michigan. 5

In Michigan, total firearm relinquishment can be authorized through the issuance of emergency, ex parte personal protection orders. Under MCL 600.2950, a court shall issue an ex parte personal protection order if it determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that particular individuals may act in a threatening, violent manner toward another, and who may do so through the purchase or possession of a firearm.6 It may be requested by a petitioner in an ex parte personal protection petition to restrict a respondent from having possession or access to a firearm. A petitioner is also required to affirm whether the respondent possesses a firearm or uses one for employment.7 As a result of a petition for personal protection, a court may find that there is reasonable cause to issue the order, but simultaneously reject a petitioner’s request to require that a respondent be restricted from purchasing or possessing a firearm. At that point, there may be knowledge that the respondent possesses or uses a gun for employment, and the court may not restrict the respondent from purchasing or possessing one.

However, respondents may file an expedited motion within five days of filing a motion to modify or terminate a personal protection order if they hold any concealed pistol license. Additionally, respondents may also petition the court if they normally carry a firearm for employment and were restricted from purchasing or possessing.8 Finally, even if a personal protection order states that a respondent will be restricted from purchasing or possessing a firearm, Michigan law enforcement agencies may be without the resources or procedures for effectuating the ex parte order that intended relinquishment.

Perhaps Michigan should follow California’s lead: In California, a person subject to a personal protective order shall not own, possess, purchase, or receive a firearm or ammunition while the protective order is in effect.9 Additionally, the court shall order the respondent to relinquish his/her firearms to local law enforcement or sell them to a licensed firearms dealer upon service of the protection order.10 Moreover, the respondent’s firearm surrender must occur immediately after service of the protection order or upon request by a law enforcement officer, whichever comes first.11 And, the respondent must also file proof of surrender to the court within forty-eight hours of being served with the personal protection order.12 According to Dr. Zeoli’s study, states enforcing mandatory gun relinquishment and collection within the parameters of domestic personal protection orders result in a twelve percent lower rate of overall intimate partner homicide.13

It is said that we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel where there’s no need. States such as California can provide the framework for legislative construction. Michigan already has the groundwork in place that acknowledges the seriousness of firearms in domestic violence situations and effectuates the issuance of ex parte personal protection orders. Michigan courts also have the front-line opportunity to be apprised of a respondent’s access to firearms. Personal protection orders can serve as vehicles for precautionary firearm confiscation and can act as early detection systems for immediate and lethal incidents of domestic violence.

About the Authors

Kristina Bilowus is a family law practitioner with Findling Law, PLC in Royal Oak and is an adjunct professor at Western
Michigan University Cooley Law School. She is a member of the Young Lawyers Section Executive Council, serving the Oakland County District. Additionally, Kristina serves on the Board for the Women’s Bar Association, Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Hellenic Bar Association, and Oakland County Inns of Court.

Amber L. Libby is a Crime Victim Legal Assistance Staff Attorney for the Michigan Advocacy Program in Gaylord, and an
Adjunct Law Professor at North Central Michigan College. She is a family law practitioner for victims of domestic violence and community educator about resources available to domestic violence survivors. Amber is a 2016 graduate of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Endnotes
1 Michigan Incident Crime Reporting, 2016, http://www.
michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-1586_3501_4621-429471–,00.
html.
2 Robert M. Sartin, David J. Hansen, Matthew T. Huss, Domestic
Violence Treatment Response and Recivism: Published in Aggression
and Violent Behavior 11:5 (September–October 2006),
pp. 425–440; A Review and Implications for the Study of Family
Violence, digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=
1084&context=psychfacpub, Page 430-431, (accessed March 3,
2018).
3 April M. Zeoli, Alexander McCourt, Shani Buggs, Shannon
Frattaroli, David Lilley, and Daniel W. Webster, American Journal
of Epidemiology (accepted version), Analysis of the Strength
of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence
and their Impact on Intimate Partner Homicide, Page 2, (accessed
February 27, 2018).

4 Id.
5 Id.
6 MCL 600.2950 (1)(e).
7 Supreme Court Administrator’s Office, Form CC 375. Petition
for Personal Protection Order (Domestic Relationship). http://
courts.mi.gov/Administration/SCAO/Forms/courtforms/cc375.pdf
(accessed March 16, 2018).
8 MCL 600.2950 (14).
9 Cal. Family Code § 6389(1)(a). Removing Guns from Domestic
Violence Offenders, https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-andinstitutes/
johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/
RemovingGunsfromIPVOffenders7Oct09.pdf (accessed
March 3, 2018).
10 Cal. Family Code § 6389(1)(c). Removing Guns from Domestic
Violence Offenders, https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-andinstitutes/
johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/
RemovingGunsfromIPVOffenders7Oct09.pdf (accessed
March 3, 2018).
11 Cal. Family Code § 6389(2).
12 Cal. Family Code § 6389(2)(a).
13 April M. Zeoli, Alexander McCourt, Shani Buggs, Shannon
Frattaroli, David Lilley, and Daniel W. Webster; American Journal
of Epidemiology (accepted version), Analysis of the Strength
of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence
and their Impact on Intimate Partner Homicide, Page 11, (February
27, 2018).

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Firearm Relinquishment Law And Implementation Could Actually Save Lives
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Firearm Relinquishment Law And Implementation Could Actually Save Lives
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Note: This article on gun violence was co-authored by Kristina Bilowus of Findling Law, PLC.  Kristina's article was accepted for publication in the April 2018 State Bar of Michigan Family Bar Journal, an academic journal for divorce and family law lawyers practicing in the State of Michigan.
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Findling Law, PLC
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