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Firearms and the incidence of arrest among respondents to domestic violence restraining orders



Persons subject to domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs), known as respondents, are generally prohibited from possessing firearms. Efforts to enforce that prohibition have not been evaluated. The study objective was to determine whether associations exist between risk of incident arrest among DVRO respondents and 1) respondents' access to firearms, and 2) law enforcement recovery of firearms from respondents with access to them.


This was an observational study of 2,972 DVRO respondents in San Mateo County, California, 525 of whom were linked to firearms by standardized screening procedures. Enrollment occurred from May 2007 to June 2010 and follow-up through September 2010. Follow-up began when DVROs were served (or when issued if no date of service was available); median duration was 689 days. Principal exposures were access to firearms and, for subjects with access to firearms whose DVROs were served, contact by law enforcement personnel to recover those firearms. Main outcome measures were 1) incidence of arrest; 2) relative risk for arrest, adjusted for age, sex, prior criminal history, and duration of follow-up, assessed using logistic regression.


Respondents linked to firearms were older than others and were more likely to have a history of prior arrest (49.7 % and 37.3 %, p < 0.0001). The incidence of arrest was 20.6 % for respondents linked to firearms and 21.1 % for others (p = 0.78). In multivariate models, access to firearms was associated with a modest, generally not statistically significant, decrease in risk for incident arrest. Among respondents who were linked to firearms and whose restraining orders were served, no statistically significant association existed between firearm recovery and risk for incident arrest.


In this small study of DVRO respondents, findings are inconclusive for an association between access to firearms or firearm recovery and risk of incident arrest. Controlled trials on larger populations are indicated.

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