This article from Australia highlights a worrying trend; that the police force in New South Wales is routinely returning firearms to gun-owning domestic violence offenders.
Anna Patty, The Sydney Morning Herald
19 September 2011
FIREARMS are being returned by police in a majority of domestic violence cases where one of the parties has a gun licence.
Figures obtained from the New South Wales (NSW) Police firearms registry under freedom of information laws show up to 2,309 licences were suspended in domestic violence cases from 2008 to 2010 under sections 22 and 23 of the Firearms Act.
The figures show only 512 people lost their gun licence over the same period under section 24 of the Firearms Act because they were subject to an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).
Only once in the two-year period did the Police Commissioner use his power under the act to revoke a gun licence because he deemed the person not "fit and proper" to hold one.
The chairwoman of the National Coalition for Gun Control, Samantha Lee, who obtained the figures from NSW Police, said many women dropped domestic violence charges out of fear and weapons would be returned to offenders. In other cases, a domestic violence charge may not be made out.
"The automatic handing back of a firearm to the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence once an application for the order has been withdrawn is like giving back a box of matches to a child because he has told his mother he will not play with them any more," she said.
"The law as it stands turns a blind eye to the fear many women face when it comes to following through with a domestic violence order. Just because the order has been withdrawn does not mean the fear has gone.
"The law needs to be amended to place onus on the licence holder to satisfy the police that his partner and children will not feel threatened or be in immediate danger by the firearm being returned. The Police Minister should also explore alternatives to allowing firearms to be stored in the home where it is readily accessible when a domestic occurs."
The convener of NSW Domestic Violence Coalition, Betty Green, said the police figures were "shocking" and an urgent discussion about firearms and domestic violence was needed.
"A person who lives with someone who has a history of abuse is living a pretty fearful life," she said. "We know that domestic violence and firearms don't mix," she said.
"Based on those figures, we need to have a frank and clear conversation about firearms and domestic violence. We know that AVOs can be withdrawn for many reasons but one of the major reasons is fear."
Ms Green said people should be screened for a history of domestic violence when buying guns.
A spokesman for the Police Minister, Mike Gallacher, said: "The NSW government is always open to considering proposals aimed at strengthening laws relating to domestic violence. The Police Minister would welcome the opportunity to discuss these proposals with the national coalition for gun control."