Virginia Strengthens Domestic Violence Laws

By | Published On: August 1, 2016

At a time when our nation is increasingly concerned about the use of firearms by unstable persons, Virginia has enacted a new statute to reduce the risk of injury to domestic violence victims at the hands of their batterers. Specifically, if you are a person who has had a protective order issued against you, it is now a felony in Virginia for you to have “possession” of a gun for so long as the protective order is in place. “Possession” includes having the gun in locations such as your home or your work place. The prohibition against gun possession applies to protective orders currently in effect which were entered in the past before the new statute took effect, as well as pursuant to protective orders entered by a court in the future.

The wisdom of the new Virginia statute is supported by statistics. According to the website of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.

The District of Columbia has taken an even stronger stance than that of Virginia. Rather than restricting gun ownership only during the period of time that the protective order is in place, D.C. law provides that anyone convicted of an “intrafamily offense” may not have a gun for five years following the conviction.  [Note:  most protective orders only extend for one to two years.]

Maryland has not yet followed the lead of its sister jurisdictions in this important area of public policy.