Publication Title: 
Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Publication Date: 
Monday, October 10, 2022

Intimate partner violence is a preventable public health problem affecting more than 12 million people in the United States annually. The immense burden of victimization is most often borne by women. Nearly one in two female homicide victims are killed by current or former partners (more than 50% of which involve firearms). Firearm-related morbidity and mortality are concentrated where firearm ownership is most prevalent and firearm laws are least restrictive, indicating the potential for law to serve as an intervention. Understanding intricacies within laws and how they vary is critical to studying their influence on health. This study is the first to use the scientific legal mapping technique of policy surveillance to create legal data by systematically collecting and coding laws that authorize or require courts to prohibit offenders subject to domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs) and temporary restraining orders (TROs) from purchasing and possessing firearms (“firearm prohibitor” laws). These data measure key provisions of federal and state laws from 1991 to 2016, including whether the law includes a firearm prohibition, who qualifies as an intimate partner, notice and hearing requirements, whether the prohibition occurs automatically or through judicial discretion, and if the law permits or requires the relinquishment or removal of firearms. The federal law, enacted in 1994 (and reauthorized in 2022), only protects qualifying victims that obtain final DVROs. States can mirror or go beyond federal measures. From 1991 to 2016, 38 states enacted a firearm prohibitor law through DVROs (37 states), TROs (20 states), or both (19 states). Today, survivors suffer from a sluggish and fragmented legal system leading to the unequal protection of victims based on where they happen to live. This research provides an in-depth descriptive analysis of this complex and nuanced legal system, recommendations to spur policy reform, and longitudinal data for future research.