The Third Branch
New firearm surrender resources available for domestic abuse and harassment cases
The Office of Court Operations and the Office of Justice Assistance (OJA) have developed resources for counties interested in implementing firearm surrender protocols.
Although Wisconsin law requires a respondent subject to domestic-abuse and some harassment injunctions to surrender his or her firearms, the statutes are silent as to a procedure for ensuring the respondent complies with the court’s surrender order.
To help fill this gap, this firearm surrender protocol (protocol) was initially developed by the OJA Violence Against Women Advisory Committee and the Governor's Council on Domestic Abuse.
In 2010, OJA awarded money to four counties – Outagamie, Sauk, Waushara, and Winnebago –to implement and test the protocol as a pilot project. A final report on the pilot was issued in March 2012 and it showed that implementing follow up steps to ensure compliance with the court’s firearm surrender order was a viable, low cost option that did not add significantly to judges' workloads. The report is available on OJA's website at http://oja.state.wi.us/programs/vawa/docs (external link) under the link "Firearm Surrender Demonstration Project Report."
In June 2012, the Committee of Chief Judges voted to recommend the firearm surrender protocol as a best practice. Court Operations worked with OJA to adapt the protocol and create forms and procedures to use in conjunction with a county's existing temporary restraining order and injunction procedure. These resources are available on CourtNet under the heading "Firearm surrender best practice recommendations."
Some highlights of the protocol include:
- Identifying Firearms Early: A new form titled Respondent's Statement of Possession of Firearms is served on the respondent with the temporary restraining order. This form requires the respondent to state whether he/she possess any firearms. The respondent is required to submit this form to the court at the injunction hearing.
- Setting a Timeline for Surrender: If the court determines that the respondent possesses a firearm, the respondent is ordered to surrender the firearm within 48 hours of the injunction hearing.
- Following Up on Surrender: The court schedules a firearm surrender hearing one week from the injunction hearing to ensure that the respondent surrenders his/her firearms. The hearing is removed from the calendar if the respondent submits proof of surrender to the court before the hearing.
- Third Party Presence: If the respondent wishes to surrender firearms to a third party, the third party is required to be present in court.
- Notice to Petitioner: The petitioner can choose to receive notice if the respondent asks the court to return his/her firearms if the injunction is vacated or when it expires.
Staff from Court Operations and OJA are available to speak with any county or judicial district interested in learning more about the protocol. Presentations have been made to the First, Second, and Tenth Judicial Districts and some counties are already in the process of implementing firearm surrender hearings. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure compliance with the court’s firearms surrender order to help protect domestic abuse and harassment victims’ safety.
For more information about the firearm surrender protocol, contact Amber Peterson in the Office of Court Operations at (608) 267-7764 or firstname.lastname@example.org.