September 28, 2023
In 2013, Colorado passed laws restricting the use and purchase of firearms for domestic violence offenders. The measure was created in order to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries from domestic violence in the state.
Five years later, studies on these laws have shown that the measure isn’t exactly working as planned
Unfortunately, domestic violence is still rampant across Colorado, despite these laws being in place. Why aren’t they working? 9News Denver thinks they know.
Over a three-month period, they conducted an investigation into the domestic violence gun restrictions and recently broadcast their findings. Namely, that there was a severe lack of enforcement.
Below we’re going to dive into what the laws on domestic violence and gun ownership in our state are supposed to be, what 9News discovered about how the laws are working (or not), and what may happen next.
What Exactly Are Colorado’s Laws on Domestic Violence and Gun Ownership?
A person in Colorado loses the right to own a firearm the moment they are hit with a protection order.
Protection orders may be issued either after a criminal charge has been filed or a civil order has been enacted by a judge. Generally, protection orders prohibit someone from seeing or contacting the alleged victim of violence, but additional terms (including the loss of 2nd amendment rights) can apply depending on the situation. Colorado’s 2013 laws also prohibit defendants from purchasing a firearm.
Domestic violence charges include:
- Acts of violence made against a former or current spouse, family member, significant other, or roommate
- Threats of violence, including threats made with a deadly weapon
- Damage to property that is committed in order to threaten or coerce a former or current spouse, family member, significant other, or roommate
If a domestic violence charge is dismissed, the defendant can have access to firearms again and continue to purchase firearms through legal means.
However, if the defendant is convicted on domestic violence charges, even if it is just a misdemeanor offense, they forfeit their right to own or purchase a gun. Forever.
Restoring the right to own a gun is nearly impossible, and not something that gun owners should count on after a domestic violence conviction.
Sounds pretty awful for gun owners, right? Except that hasn’t really been the reality over the past five years.
Investigation Finds That Few Efforts Have Been Made to Enforce These Laws
Law enforcement is not required to remove guns at the scene of a domestic violence incident, but they are supposed to follow up after offenders are convicted or take action to possess firearms, and according to the investigation, that is where they have failed.
Over 69,000 gun relinquishment orders have gone out to domestic violence offenders since the law was enacted in 2013. How many of those offenders have relinquished their guns?
We don’t know.
Despite the fact that relinquishment orders require proof of relinquishment within three business days, there is no way to actually track how many gun owners have gone out to get proof that they have relinquished their firearms in compliance with the law.
To put that as bluntly as possible, no one knows whether 60,000 offenders have relinquished their firearms or just 600.
What we do know is that since those 69,000 orders went out, only 165 people have been charged with illegal gun possession. That’s around .02% of all of the issued orders.
Do you really believe that 99.98% of all other orders were followed?
Even if your answer was yes, recent court cases in Colorado offer proof that a number of domestic violence offenders who were supposed to relinquish their guns have not only illegally owned firearms, but used those weapons to kill girlfriends, wives, spouses, and even strangers.
The results of this study are embarrassing for law enforcement officials throughout Colorado, which should matter to you if you are charged because it may result in tougher enforcement of the current laws.
Additional studies show that gun deaths are rising not just in domestic violence cases, but also in other cases throughout Colorado. As gun control laws die in state congress, the only way to enforce these laws and prevent more deaths is to actively pursue domestic violence offenders who have been given a deadline to relinquish their firearms and make sure they do it.
What Will Happen to Your Guns If You Are Charged with Domestic Violence
Even if you are simply charged with domestic violence, if you are under a protection order, you will have to relinquish your right to own a firearm. Guns must be given to a private party, gun dealership, or law enforcement, and then you must gather proof of the relinquishment in order to avoid further charges or a conviction.
Moving out of Colorado won’t help you either. Federal law also prohibits people who are convicted of domestic violence from owning firearms.
If you want to retain your right to own a gun (and avoid other life-long penalties of a domestic violence conviction), you need to fight your charges. That means reaching out to a Colorado criminal defense lawyer who specializes in domestic violence and related cases.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.