Firearms & Protective Orders in Intimate Partner Homicides

Firearms & Protective Orders in Intimate Partner Homicides

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: November 20th, 2020

A new study finds that a majority of victims killed in an intimate partner homicide were killed with a firearm.

Using data from the National Violence Death Reporting System (NVDRS), researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC), UW Medicine, and the Department of Epidemiology of the University of Washington School of Public Health have conducted a study to identify differences in intimate partner homicides (IPH). The study looked at whether firearms were used in an IPH and whether a protection order (PO) was filed prior to the homicide. It was published on November 20, 2020 in the Journal of Family Violence.

Results in the study found out of 8,375 IPH incidents on NVDRS between 2003-2018, there were 9,130 victims.

  • 306 (3.3%) victims were killed in a firearm IPH with PO
  • 4,519 (53.9%) in a firearm IPH without PO
  • 176 (2.1%) in a non-firearm IPH with PO
  • 3,416 (40.7%) in a non-firearm IPH without PO.

“A majority of these victims were killed with a firearm,” said lead author and HIPRC researcher Vivian Lyons, PhD. She emphasizes most victims that were killed by a firearm did not have a PO mentioned in the narrative summaries of the law enforcement or coroner/medical examiner reports. Prior literature on POs may not be as accurate either.

“We have read previously that firearm removal in protective orders could be an effective strategy to reduce the risk of intimate partner homicides, but in this study we found no documentation that firearm removal was a condition in the protective orders identified,” Lyons says.

Lyons suggests having protective order status documented could be a huge improvement to NVDRS data. As a result of this lack of data, it’s still unclear whether the use of a protective order could have prevented an IPH. Expanding protection orders with firearm removal clauses and enforcement of these orders are possible ways to reduce access to firearms for perpetrators of IPV.

Researchers in this study are part of HIPRC’s Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program. The group’s mission is to reduce the impact of firearm injury and death on people’s lives through interdisciplinary research and collaboration with institutional, community, and governmental partners.

For more on this study, click here.