IOWA CITY, Iowa — More than a dozen states have strengthened laws over the past two years to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, a rare area of consensus in the nation’s highly polarized debate over guns.

Lawmakers and governors of both parties have supported bills stripping gun rights from those who have been convicted of domestic violence-related crimes or are subject to protective orders. The measures have been backed by victims’ advocates, law enforcement groups and gun control supporters who see easy access to firearms as a major contributor to domestic violence killings.

Similar proposals are expected to be debated in several states this year.

“Domestic violence is definitely an area where there is the most agreement between the gun lobby and gun-violence prevention advocates,” said Allison Anderman, staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.

The National Rifle Association has taken a cautious approach toward such bills, opposing the farthest-reaching measures but staying neutral or negotiating compromises on others. For example, the NRA has fought provisions that would require people to surrender their guns before they have a chance to contest allegations made in a request for an emergency protective order.

“There is no evidence that simply taking away people’s guns without a fair hearing makes the victims any safer,” NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said.

The push in the states is driven by stories of women and children killed or wounded by known abusers, and by statistics showing that hostile relationships often turn deadly when guns are present.

An average of 760 Americans were killed with guns annually by spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners between 2006 and 2014, according to an Associated Press analysis of FBI and Florida data. The total is an undercount because not all law enforcement agencies report such information. More than 80 percent of those killed were women.

“The system failed my son, and I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure it never happens to another child or another woman,” said Hollie Ayers, 44, a Pennsylvania woman whose 2½-year-old son, Michael, was shot and killed by her abusive ex-husband in 2013. Ayers also was shot in the face and the leg. Her ex-husband killed himself after the rampage.

Ayers had warned that he had guns and had said that he, his ex-wife and the child “would be better off dead” before she obtained a permanent protection-from-abuse order, court records show. But the judge did not order her ex-husband to surrender his weapons, even after he violated the protective order.

Hollie Ayers is pushing for a Pennsylvania law that would require people to turn over their guns when judges issue protection orders against them.

Federal law has long prohibited felons, those convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse and individuals subject to permanent protective orders from buying or owning guns. Critics say the federal law is too weak because it does not apply to dating relationships, does not ban guns during temporary protective orders and does not establish procedures for abusers to surrender firearms.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.