State efforts to enforce firearm dispossession through relinquishment laws

Oliphant, S. N., & Zeoli, A. M. (2024). State efforts to enforce firearm dispossession through relinquishment laws. Criminology & Public Policy, 1–26.


Research Summary
Although federal law prohibits firearm possession by individuals who have been convicted of a disqualifying offense and those who are subject to certain domestic violence protective orders (DVPOs), it does not provide a mechanism for enforcing firearm dispossession. Some states have adopted relinquishment laws to enforce firearm possession restrictions among prohibited persons following a disqualifying status or conviction. To date, limited research has assessed the statutory characteristics of firearm relinquishment laws related to DVPOs. We build on this work by assessing DVPO and conviction-based relinquishment statutes, including legislative changes through time, to identify gaps in policy.

Policy Implications
Our analysis revealed that many states still lack statutory elements that are expected to increase the likelihood of firearm dispossession, such as requiring the court to order relinquishment, strict standards for providing proof of firearm transfer or some form of compliance verification, and provisions that authorize law enforcement to recover unrelinquished firearms. The absence of such elements may facilitate unlawful firearm retention by those who become prohibited possessors. States might consider adopting relinquishment provisions that outline clear requirements for actors (i.e., judges, prohibited possessors, law enforcement) at each stage of the process to ensure that firearms are relinquished following a disqualifying conviction or DVPO.