This study analyzed petitioner and judicial decision-making about firearm removal in cases of civil domestic violence (DV) protection orders (POs).
Firearms in situations of domestic violence (DV) are particularly lethal. Although firearms present a public health concern nationally, some states, such as Arizona, have especially high rates of intimate partner homicide (IPH). Despite empirical findings that state-level firearm removal policies significantly reduce rates of IPH, little is known about the factors shaping judicial decisions to implement these provisions at the local level. The current study used a sample of 580 PO filings from the DV protection order database (Durfee 2019). Petitioners requested firearm removal in 49.6 percent of PO petitions, and judges included state-level firearm removal as a provision in 31.0 percent of POs that were granted. Of the 580 petitioners who requested firearm removal and received an issued PO, judges granted firearm removal 50.1 percent of the time. Findings indicate that judges were more likely to grant firearm removal when PO petitions contained mentions of physical violence, threats to kill the petitioner, and allegations that the respondent owned a gun, controlling for all demographics, incidence characteristics, and allegations about the respondent. Furthermore, judges were less likely to grant firearm removal when petitioners alleged that the respondent had mental health issues. The results are discussed within the context of judicial discretion and U.S. firearm legislation. (publisher abstract modified)