2021-2024, Active

Domestic Violence Restraining Order Firearm Restrictions: Do They Improve Restraining Order Petitioner Safety?

Affiliated Project

The overarching goal of this project is to provide evidence-based solutions to improve the safety of survivors of intimate partner firearm violence. Results will be widely disseminated to key community stakeholders, practitioners, and through a final report, peer reviewed journals, and national scholarly conferences. Additionally, the datasets will be archived.



Roughly 33,000 individuals are subjected to nonfatal firearm-involved intimate partner violence (IPV) annually in the U.S. One strategy to reduce firearm use in IPV is to prohibit individuals who are under domestic violence restraining orders (DVRO) from accessing firearms. While there is solid evidence of an ecological-level correlation between state laws allowing firearm restrictions on DVROs and decreased intimate partner homicide rates, no one has examined whether there is an individual-level relationship between DVRO firearm restrictions and future nonfatal IPV. Using two states, one with a discretionary DVRO firearm restriction law and no relinquishment law (Michigan) and one with an automatic DVRO firearm restriction law that includes a relinquishment law (Wisconsin), we will investigate this relationship. From each state, we will recruit 100 DVRO petitioners whose abusers have used or have access to firearms (for a total of 200 petitioners), surveying them at the time they petition and six months later. The surveys address IPV history, experiences with firearm-related DVRO processes, implementation of firearm restrictions, and subsequent victimization. We expect to have multiple groups of petitioners who vary on the following factors: whether they are granted a DVRO, whether the DVRO includes firearm restrictions, and whether restrictions are followed by relinquishment.

The data we obtain from the DVRO petitioner surveys will allow us to fulfill the following aims:

  • Identify whether DVRO firearm restrictions are protective against future firearm violence;
  • Examine the implementation of DVRO firearm restrictions, including factors related to whether they are ordered and whether those who possess firearms are required to relinquish them;
  • Determine survivors’ experiences with justice system responses to IPV firearm uses and threats; and
  • Investigate the nature and consequences of firearm access in IPV, including defensive firearm uses by IPV victims.

Additionally, we will survey police chief executives in Michigan and Wisconsin to gain an understanding of how DVRO-related firearm relinquishments impact their operations, whether they have adequate resources to cooperate with the process, their willingness to engage in relinquishments, and predictors of such perceptions. We will also recruit 20 executives for qualitative interviews to provide context to the quantitative survey results. Law enforcements’ perspective on this issue is missing from the current literature and is important because the success of DVRO firearm restrictions largely hinges on whether abusers are dispossessed of their firearms, a responsibility given to the police. Through these surveys and interviews, we will fulfill the following aim:

  • Explore Michigan and Wisconsin law enforcement chief executives’ views regarding how DVRO-related firearm relinquishment would (or does) impact their operations (i.e., the logistical hurdles of cooperating with such policies), whether they have adequate resources to effectively engage in relinquishments, their willingness to engage in firearm relinquishments, and the predictors of such attitudes through quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews.

Project Team

April M. Zeoli, PhD, MPH
Scott Wolfe, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator


The Joyce Foundation


Michigan State University