(The Center Square) – In 2014, the Washington state legislature enacted a law intended to reduce the number of domestic violence offenses involving firearms. However, seven years after the law took effect, domestic violence offenses had increased by 23%, while the number of firearms used to commit them had more than doubled.
ESHB 1840, passed during the 2014 legislative session, prohibits a person subject to certain protection, no-contact, or restraining orders from possessing firearms. The law requires those individuals to give up any firearms they possess.
According to the pro-bill summary from the bill report, “This is a domestic violence bill, not a firearm bill. We need to do better as a state in removing firearms from domestic violence abusers. Murder is often committed by current or former intimate partners and these murders are happening with firearms. Abusers use firearms to intimidate and coerce their victims. This small step will go a long way in giving people who are protected under orders peace of mind.”
Most of the law took effect in 2014. At the end of the year, there were a total of 11,639 reported violations of no-contact orders and protection offenses, with a total of 5,089 arrests. Of those violations, 8,531 of them were domestic violence-related. The data come from annual crime reports compiled by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
That same year, there were 49,360 domestic violence offenses, 341 of which involved a firearm, compared to 20,876 involving personal weapons. In 2014 there were 63 domestic violence homicides, 24 of which involved a firearm. The total population at the time was 6,969,573 residents.
By 2021, the population had grown to 7,772,506 residents, an 11.5% increase. The number of no contact and protection order violations had increased to 18,830, a 60% increase and an increased rate per 1,000 state residents from 1.67 to 2.4. Of those, 14,487 were domestic violent-related. That year is the latest annual crime data report available, and the reports do not include data on how many no-contact or protection order violations involved a firearm.
Meanwhile, there was a total 60,808 domestic violence offenses, a 23% increase from 2014. The number of offenses involving a firearm more than doubled to 757, while personal weapons were used in 26,622 offenses. In 2021, the number of domestic violence homicides had slightly dropped to 62, but the number of murders involving a firearm increased to 28.
The only known prosecution and conviction for violating Initiative 594, which was also passed in 2014 by voters, occurred when a man was arrested in 2017 and initially charged with unlawful possession of a firearm under a court order, only later to be also charged with violating I-594 when they discovered the firearm had been purchased through an unlicensed seller. The charges against him for unlawful possession were dropped, but he later pled guilty to violating I-594.