TV station: Minnesota not enforcing domestic abuse gun law

Published 11:08 am Saturday, March 3, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis TV station says Minnesota courts appear to be doing a lackluster job of making sure guns are seized from abusers in domestic violence cases.

KARE-TV examined data when following up on 2014’s Domestic Violence Firearm Act, which allows judges to issue an Order for Protection if domestic abuse has occurred. The order requires that alleged abusers transfer or surrender weapons within three days and file an affidavit detailing where the guns went.

The TV station examined thousands of individual domestic violence cases where individuals alleged that a gun had been used. The investigation found that officials rarely follow up to ensure orders are obeyed.

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Records show that the state had nearly 3,000 Order for Protection cases in 2016 and only 119 had a firearm transfer affidavits filed in court.

The court system didn’t release data on how many of those cases involved abusers with firearms, citing their public access rules don’t allow for “bulk distribution of domestic abuse cases records” without a Supreme Court order. The Supreme Court decided not to issue an order for fear of undermining the bulk distribution court rule.

Desiree Nelson received an Order for Protection after being assaulted by a man who also threatened her kids with a gun. The TV station found no records that her abuser ever completed the required affidavit.

Two years after the order was issued and while it was still in effect, court records show the man was arrested for threatening another woman. The woman told police she believed he carried a gun and that he threatened to shoot her.

“There’s no secret at all that he owns a gun,” Nelson said. “They tell him to surrender it, and then no one even checks.”

Hennepin County Presiding Family Court Judge Patrick Robben said it’s up to the individual judicial officer to check on the orders.

“If they have reason to believe guns are an issue to then monitor the case and look to see whether that paperwork is on file,” he said.

Wisconsin courts automatically schedule a compliance hearing a week after a gun surrender order has been issued in order to ensure it’s been followed.

Authorities in King County, Washington created a task force last year to locate guns owned by accused domestic abuses. Prosecutors, police and victims monitor social media sites to identify firearms that abusers may have hidden from authorities.