Legislators in Illinois are being urged by domestic violence and gun violence prevention organizations to strengthen protections for victims who have obtained restraining orders against their abusers.
As “Karina’s Law,” the proposed legislation would mandate the immediate seizure of firearms from people who have been issued restraining orders.
Karina González, a restraining order victim, was murdered by her estranged husband in July; the street is named after her.
Loophole in Current Law
An existing gap in the law allows abusers to keep their guns even after a protection order has been granted, but supporters of Karina’s Law claim that would be rectified.
“Karina’s Bill will clarify and strengthen the law to give law enforcement a clear directive to remove the firearm from the home when an order of protection is granted with the firearm remedy by the judge,” said Amanda Pyron, executive director of The Network, a coalition of organizations working to end domestic violence. “So this isn’t something that survivors can do on their own.”
During the veto session commencing on October 24th, The Network and other advocacy groups will be lobbying legislators to approve Karina’s Law. They call for immediate action to be taken to stop the bleeding.
Gun Rights Opposition
However, groups advocating for the right to bear arms, such as the Illinois State Rifle Association and Second Amendment groups, have spoken out against the plan.
According to Richard Pearson, the executive director of the ISRA, “this legislation presumes gun owners are guilty before proven innocent and immediately renders them defenseless.” “It violates several constitutionally protected rights.”
The lack of adequate due process provisions in the measure is another point of criticism. They want wording added to make sure gun owners may fight any confiscations of their weapons in a timely manner in court.
Legislators are debating whether or not to include Karina’s Law in the crowded schedule of the upcoming autumn veto session, and the debate is sure to be heated.
A Troubling Pattern of Abuse and Violence
Advocates for victims of domestic violence often cite the death of Karina González as evidence that the laws currently in place are inadequate.
On July 15th, González, 39, and her 15-year-old daughter were murdered by González’s estranged husband, Jose Alvarez, at their Chicago home. González had a current order of protection against Alvarez, but that didn’t stop Alvarez from harassing her.
González repeatedly went to the police to report Alvarez’s abuse and threats over the course of several years. She just had a court in Cook County issue an emergency protective order requiring Alvarez to keep away from her and her house.
But the legislation as it stands merely requires Alvarez to voluntarily surrender whatever firearms he may have. It did not require law enforcement to take guns away from him violently.
Unfortunately, Alvarez paid no attention to the protective order. On the 15th of July, he went to the home of González and her daughter, where he fatally shot both of them and then attempted suicide.
Alvarez will be jailed without bond pending trial on two counts of first-degree murder.
Supporters say González’s death is a tragic example of how weak protection orders are when it comes to requiring domestic abusers to give up their firearms. These deficiencies are the focus of Karina’s Law.
Key Components of Proposed Legislation
Specifically, Karina’s Law would:
- An individual subject to a restraining order should have their firearms confiscated promptly. At present, there is no mechanism in place to ensure that an abuser really hands over their firearms when compelled to do so.
- Make it crystal clear that law enforcement must act to disarm criminals who should not have access to firearms.
- Judges should be able to issue gun surrender orders as part of protective orders for emergencies. At the moment, gun control may only be instituted by court orders granted after a full hearing.
- Within 48 hours of the issuance of the protection order, the defendant must show proof that they have turned over all firearms to the appropriate authorities. Strict inventory policies would have to be implemented.
- Include detailed consequences for disobeying gun surrender orders.
Some believe that by passing these laws, the loopholes that allowed Alvarez to maintain his gun after González was issued a restraining order will be closed. The enforcement systems would be improved as well.
Karina had taken all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of herself and her kid, including filing for a protective order and cooperating with law enforcement and the court system. However, the system let her down, as Live Free Illinois’s policy director Lisée Murphy put it. “We have to do better.”
When perpetrators of domestic violence have access to firearms, the scenario can quickly escalate to a lethal one, according to the available research.
One study found that when an abuser has access to a gun, the risk of murder for the victim increases by a factor of five.
One study indicated that 20% of people who received orders of protection against their intimate partners were murdered within two days of the order being issued. About a third of them perished within the first month. Celina Villanueva, a Democrat from Chicago, is a state senator.
Advocates say legislation like Karina’s Law is desperately needed and might save lives since each year more than 117,000 calls are made to domestic abuse assistance providers in Illinois.
They promise to return to Springfield for the autumn veto session and keep the pressure on lawmakers to act.