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ATF Agents Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Enforcing Federal Gun Laws

December 15, 2020

The Gun Control Act bans the possession of firearms by individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. United States Code (USC) Section 922(g)(9) allows for the removal of firearms. In passing the law, Congress noted that “anyone who attempts or threatens violence against a loved one has demonstrated that he or she poses an unacceptable risk, and should be prohibited from possessing firearms.”  

In the new episode of our Patchwork podcast, Regina Lombardo, who heads the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF), explains how her agents work to protect victims from people who have qualifying convictions and are known to be dangerous by ensuring they do not have access to firearms. As we have shared in previous episodes, communities and U.S. Attorneys nationwide are working together to reduce the threat of domestic violence homicides.

In their important role, ATF agents launch investigations they refer to as “G-9” cases -- so named because of the USC Section 922 (g)(9) -- as they work to protect survivors of domestic violence. Tragically, ATF agents have seen firsthand and how domestic violence can turn deadly with a firearm.

When properly enforced, laws like USC Section 922(g)(9) make a difference. Regina explains how important protection orders are when it comes to removing guns from the dangerous equation. While a court order of protection does not physically keep an attacker out like a good lock on a strong door, it is one very important layer of protection. A protection order puts in place legal protections that can be enforced by the criminal justice system. The document creates the legal foundation on which law enforcement can take a firm stand – such as confiscating a firearm or arresting an offender who violates the terms of the protection order. 

Also, one of the collateral benefits we have seen as a result of the COVID outbreak is the ability in some states for victims to obtain a protection order remotely.

Regina also talks about the significant danger that law enforcement officers face when they intervene in domestic violence situations, especially when an abuser has a gun. She discusses the risk her agents face, their dedication to victims, and the heartbreaking loss that comes from deadly domestic violence when a gun is present.

We know the risks to victims and survivors of domestic violence and we have strong the laws in place to protect people at risk.  Attorney General Barr has created a powerful network of agencies working together, including the ATF, U.S. Attorneys, the Office on Violence Against Women and others at DOJ who are proud to support our local communities to save lives by enforcing these laws.

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Updated January 20, 2021