King County funds task force to get guns from domestic abusers

King County Councilmembers have unanimously approved more than $600,000 to target accused domestic abusers who refuse to turn over their firearms to police, as required by law. (Photo: KING) 
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King County Councilmembers have unanimously approved more than $600,000 to target accused domestic abusers who refuse to turn over their firearms to police, as required by law.

The measure was approved one day after a man with a history of domestic violence went on a rampage killing 26 people at a Texas church.   The Air Force admits that it failed to notify the proper authorities about Devon Kelley’s domestic violence conviction, which should have prohibited the former serviceman from owning the rifle used in the attack.

Federal law requires people served with domestic violence protection orders to surrender their firearms to police.

“Too many times weapons aren’t being surrendered.  The perpetrator is denying that they even exist and we know that’s not true in many cases,” said King County Council Chair Joe McDermott.

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Studies have shown that victims are five times more likely to be murdered if their abuser has access to a gun.  Nearly 400 domestic violence victims have been shot-to-death in Washington in the last 10 years.

The council on Monday approved a budget request to hire more police and prosecutors to enforce the law.

King County is following the lead of Seattle City Council, which has already approved $300,000 to form the Regional Domestic Violence and Firearms Enforcement Unit.

Each year more than 2,000 criminal and civil protection orders are filed in courts in King County.  Those orders bar individuals from contacting the petitioner, typically a family member or boyfriend or girlfriend.

If firearms are involved in the threat, the judge is required to issue an order mandating that the accused abuser surrender all firearms to police.

Earlier this year the KING 5 Investigators found that many of those “surrender orders” are ignored.  Records from the King County Clerk’s Office showed that in 47% of the cases, the accused abuser did not respond to the order.  Many abusers were “no shows” at hearings where they were supposed to appear to explain themselves to the judge.