KOKH: Alleged offenders on 'honor system' for handing over guns

By Connor Hansen
Published: December 12, 2019


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On a daily basis, protection orders are filed against people accused of crimes like domestic abuse, stalking, harassment or sexual assault.

Many of them are asked to give up their guns as a part of the order, but when it comes to turning them over, alleged offenders are on the honor system.

Data from the Oklahoma attorney general’s office shows in 2017, more than half of people killed as a result of domestic violence were killed with guns.

That’s why some experts say there needs to be a better system for keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous offenders.

“I think a lot of people don’t want violent offenders having access to weapons,” said Kim Garrett, the CEO of Palomar. “That only increases the chances that something terrible can happen.”

Palomar and its partners say they help people fill out hundreds of victim protection orders every month.

The orders, when signed by a judge, tell defendants they can’t have any contact with their alleged victim.

Another box judges can check tells them they have to surrender any firearms they have.

It’s up to the judge to say where the guns go, and that could be different in every county.

“Right now, they’re on the honor system,” Garrett said. “And you have to think about the mentality of an abuser where they manipulate the system and their partner.”

Garrett says some orders simply tell defendants to surrender their guns to local law enforcement, and don’t specify where.

“We serve at least one protective order per week,” said Lt. Chris Grace from the McClain County Sheriff’s Office. “They’re pretty common unfortunately. Domestic violence is on the rise and it’s a scary thing.”

In McClain County, deputies deliver brightly colored forms to defendants when they’re asked to give up their guns.

They can collect them on the spot, but without a search warrant, it’s up to the defendant to tell them if they have guns or how many they have.

“If they get caught with them, they go to jail after that, because we have proof that they’ve been served,” Grace said.

McClain County stores the weapons, but with limited space, Lt. Grace says sometimes they allow other family members of the defendant to take the guns instead.

Kim Garrett with Palomar says she would like to see more strict enforcement like she’s seen in other states.

“In other states, in other cities, they have time sensitive and monitored enforcement,” Garrett said. “That means when that is completed and a judge orders that someone has to relinquish their weapons, they typically have 24 hours that they have to return a receipt to the courts. And if they don’t, they’re in violation of the order.”

The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office says defendants with protection orders can take guns there, if they can’t bring them to their local police department.

The Oklahoma City Police Department says defendants need to call and arrange to meet an officer to give them any guns they have.

Even if a judge does not tell someone with a protection order against them to give up their guns, it is against federal law for them to have one.