Rock Center   |  May 03, 2013

Should guns be taken from domestic violence abusers?

Domestic violence prevention advocates say that protection orders against abusers often do little to protect victims when guns are involved. A growing number of people are calling for guns to be taken away when protection orders are served. The policy has drawn opposition from the NRA and other gun rights groups. Rock Center’s Harry Smith reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> "rock center" on this friday night. our first report comes off of the debate over gun control and gun rights . specifically our first story has to do with orders of protection meant to shield victims of domestic violence . often they are not enough. so one police department believes it has developed a tactic that helps diffuse the worst of of the violence but the solution brings us back to the gun debate as you will see in our first report tonight from harry smith .

>> we can't leave you alone for five minutes.

>> it is hard to imagine now but a year and a half ago stephanie holten was scared to death. recently divorced her ex-husband threatened to shoot her. she thought a protection order against him would keep her and her two children safe.

>> he said to my face he would come over to my house and put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger. that he would blow my head off.

>> reporter: but they were not safe at all. her ex had a gun. nine hours after police served him with a protection order he showed up at holten 's door armed.

>> he has a gun pointed at me and i dare not move and he starts to yell at me, i was served a protection order today and i'm going to kill you. i'm going to shoot you and i remember trembling and looking at him. i remember seeing such hate and such anger in his face, in his voice. and i also see this weapon that is now right up against my coat. i'm on my knees next to my living room couch. and he's standing over me. and i'm looking at this gun barrel , and i don't know where my children are.

>> reporter: her children were outside when her ex-husband looked away to call to them holten reached for her cell phone.

>> the minute he turned his head, i pulled it out, unlocked it, watching him, put it next to my couch.

>> and you had the presence of mind to dial 911.

>> yes, i do and praying it made the connection to 911. that the operator can hear me and that we have an active line.

>> 911 what are you reporting.

>> don't please.

>> why? why, stephanie ? don't do this.

>> he was going to take my children and shoot me. i was saying the lord's prayer on my knees.

>> reporter: it seemed like an eternity but minutes later holten 's prayers were answed and the spokane police arrived at her home.

>> i hear spokane police department , let me see your hands.

>> reporter: what goes through your brains.

>> oh, my god. they got the call. they got the call. i'm alive.

>> reporter: stephanie holten was lucky, but many women are not. these are the faces of women who were killed by guns, even though they were granted a protection order. here's the problem. while federal statutes require most of those served with protection orders to give up their weapons, it's a law that is rarely enforced and according to a "new york times" investigation, only seven states, just seven states, have laws that match the federal law . in those states, the law is rarely enforced. rendering protection orders worth little more than the paper they are written on.

>> this is about taking the guns out of the hands of people that are illegally not allowed to them have.

>> she has studied domestic violence homicide for 16 years.

>> we know that domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed if there is a gun around.

>> five times?

>> five times.

>> when there is a gun is when we see domestic vielts turn to murder.

>> reporter: that's why stavr and prevention advocates want to see when protection orders are served guns are taken away.

>> the murder rate has gone down in this country. has it gone down as far as you can see in terms of domestic violence ?

>> it is one of the few violent crimes that has not over the last 20 years and it makes you question where are the gaps in holding abierzs accountable and providing options for victims to be safe because other kinds of violent crime is going down, than is not.

>> reporter: the nra and other gun rights groups strongly oppose local laws that require those served with protection orders to give up their guns saying proposed laws ignore due process, arguing it is a punishment without prosecution. the nra declined our request for an interview.

>> what all is in here?

>> we have shotguns, rifles. pretty much any kind of gun you can imagine.

>> reporter: california is one of the seven states that has very strict laws when it comes to guns and protection orders . it requires gun owners to give them up, but few do.

>> today we have two things on our plate.

>> reporter: in san mateo county , sheriff deputy kovach's job is to collect those weapons. his job requires a lot of leg work , good communication.

>> how many guns does he have in the bedroom there?

>> three.

>> can you tell me what kind they are?

>> reporter: and patience.

>> are they long guns?

>> reporter: this woman has ms. she and her mother worry that her estranged husband is determined to do them harm.

>> if you know, police will go and get the guns away from your daughter's husband, do you feel safer?

>> in the moment, yes.

>> in the moment.

>> individual handguns.

>> reporter: last year kovach's department brought in 324 guns and they say they have not had a single firearm related domestic violence homicide in three years.

>> i work a lot of different areas of law enforcement . they are all satisfying but nothing like this.

>> i'm detective kovach.

>> reporter: kovach's work reaches from the poorest neighborhoods to the most prosperous. domestic violence knows no demographic boundaries. we watched kovach and his partner deliver a protection order.

>> i'm here to serve you with a restraining order and confiscate any firearms you may have.

>> reporter: most police departments don't have the man power to do this. it is rarely as simple as showing up and taking a gun away.

>> so you gave these guns to your brother in law?

>> kovach and hinsly wouldn't be here if not for a special financial grant from the federal government , which pays for them to track down guns one by one. you have just been served. so now is the clock is ticking. how's he going to react to it where's the firearm.

>> reporter: it will take time but they will find and confiscate the gun.

>> you feel it makes a difference?

>> i know it does. i believe in my heart it does. not only for the people that are taking out the restraining orders but law enforcement a lot of times will have continuous contact with domestic violence dintss. so we may be saving the lives of officers by taking the guns off the streets.

>> reporter: stephanie 's ex-husband was sent to prison for attempted assault but she is still afraid of the day he's released.

>> i'm afraid of what could happen or what will happen. one thing he said to me that night that keeps me awake at night is that if he's arrested he will come back.

>> harry smith reporting tonight on this intersection of the law and gun laws androtection of women.