RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced the first successful prosecution under a provision of law that was a component of last year’s bipartisan agreement to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers and people who can’t pass background checks. Earlier this month, a Henrico County man received a 15-month prison sentence to be served immediately and a suspended sentence of three years and nine months, after pleading no contest to the charge of possessing a firearm while under a family protective order. The individual in question was charged with the crime on July 20, 2016, just 19 days after the law went into effect.
“Last year, Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass a bill that makes it a felony for domestic abusers to possess a firearm if they are subject to a permanent protective order. Today, we are seeing the clear benefits of that law,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “News of this successful prosecution demonstrates that this new law is making Virginia families and communities safer.I am proud of the work our localities and law enforcement officials are doing to implement these new gun safety laws and remove firearms from potentially deadly situations.”
The firearms surrender provision, which went into effect on July 1, 2016, was part of a larger bipartisan gun safety deal passed by Governor McAuliffe and the General Assembly during the 2016 Legislative Session. The provision bars someone who is subject to a permanent protective order from possessing a firearm for the duration of the order and requires that they surrender their firearm to a third party within 24 hours of being served, or face felony charges. The law, which is among the toughest in the nation, was part of a bipartisan gun safety agreement that included the first meaningful limitations on dangerous gun ownership in 25 years.
“This case is exactly the kind of scenario we had in mind when crafting the new law,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “The victim and citizens of the Commonwealth are safer because of our bipartisan work. Virginia is now the leader in taking tough action against domestic violence.”
“Research has proven that a firearm in the hands of a perpetrator of domestic violence is a dangerous, often lethal combination. We are pleased to see Virginia communities acting to enforce prohibitions and to remove firearms from persons subject to a Protective Order,” said Kristine Hall, Policy Director at the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance. “This is a common sense strategy to stem the tide of lethal violence committed in the context of intimate and family relationships.”
“We are fortunate to have laws in the Commonwealth to help keep firearms out of the hands of those who are prone to violence, like Michael Vaughan,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor. “This law is another tool to keep victims, particularly those of domestic violence, the citizens of both Henrico County and the Commonwealth, safe.”
In 2014, 31% of all homicides were attributed to family and intimate partner violence and 54% of family and intimate partner homicides involved a firearm.