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Advocates say SCOTUS ruling paves way for law ensuring abusers have guns confiscated

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U.S. Supreme Court building

After the U.S. Supreme Court last week upheld a federal law that bars those under domestic violence-related restraining orders from owning guns, victim advocates say Illinois lawmakers should pass a measure to ensure firearms are actually confiscated in those situations.

The legislation has been stalled for more than a year, despite efforts this spring and fall to resurrect it after the high-profile murder of Chicago resident Karina Gonzalez. She and her 15-year-old daughter Daniela were allegedly shot to death by her estranged husband less than two weeks after a judge issued an order of protection against him. Jose Alvarez remains in Cook County Jail and is next due in court on Tuesday.

Read more: Advocates push for guns to be taken from domestic abusers when order of protection served | Advocates renew push to tighten firearm laws aimed at protecting domestic violence victims

But after Friday’s high court ruling, advocates say there is nothing else standing in the way of lawmakers taking up the bill, which last summer was rebranded “Karina’s Bill” after Gonzalez’s murder. The bill would clarify existing state law and require law enforcement to take guns from those subject to certain domestic violence orders of protection.

Amanda Pyron, executive director of Chicago-based domestic violence advocacy organization The Network, said it “hit a lot of us really hard” that Friday’s Supreme Court decision was published on the one-year anniversary of Gonzalez’s order of protection against her husband.

“I think it says a lot about our state that it took this long and we hope it will say something different about our state if we get it passed in (the General Assembly’s fall) veto session,” Pyron said of lawmaker inaction on Karina’s bill during a call with reporters on Monday.

State Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, a chief sponsor of Karina’s Bill, said in a statement Friday that while the high court’s ruling is “a great relief for survivors of gender-based violence,” the decision “merely preserve(s) the status quo.”

“Here in Illinois, we should move forward by enacting Karina’s Bill, which will provide clear guidance for getting guns out of the hands of abusers, and ensure those weapons are removed sooner – all within a framework that justices have now overwhelmingly endorsed,” she said.

Hirschauer pushed an earlier, broader version of the bill through the Illinois House in May 2023, but it failed to advance in the Senate. Gonzalez and her daughter were killed two months later.

Under existing state law, when petitioning a court for a domestic violence order of protection, a victim can ask for 18 specific “remedies,” including the confiscation of the alleged abuser’s firearms. But state law is less than clear on how firearms should be surrendered – or forcibly taken by law enforcement if need be.

Karina’s Bill would clarify that firearms must be surrendered or confiscated within four days of a victim being granted a domestic violence order of protection against their abuser – a change from an earlier version of the bill that stipulated a 48-hour timeline. It would also explicitly allow a judge to issue a search warrant for those weapons when law enforcement goes to serve the order of protection.

Although advocates had been waiting for Friday’s Supreme Court decision, they say lawmakers could have taken up Karina’s Bill this spring during the General Assembly’s regular legislative session.

But the pending high court case wasn’t the only barrier; law enforcement groups like the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police have expressed concerns about smaller, more rural police departments’ abilities to follow the law’s directive to confiscate weapons within four days of an order of protection being issued.

Even Gov. JB Pritzker, while generally supportive of the bill, pointed out last month that law enforcement officers could be going into volatile situations when serving a search warrant for firearms.

“In the instance where you’ve got to go confiscate the firearm, literally you have to bring sometimes four officers to one situation in order to remove the weapon,” he said. “And if somebody doesn’t want to give it to you, it becomes quite complicated and maybe dangerous.”

The latest version of the legislation would allow federally licensed gun dealers to store any guns seized or surrendered by someone under a domestic violence order of protection with the firearm remedy – a change made after smaller police departments said they wouldn’t be able to store all of those guns themselves.

Pyron and other advocates said the bill has been tweaked and is ready for lawmakers to take it up again when they return to Springfield in November. She also warned that the General Assembly’s consideration of Karina’s Bill is made even more urgent by a recent “upward trend” in domestic violence-related gun homicides in Illinois.

According to The Network’s analysis of statistics compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, Illinois saw a near-doubling of domestic violence shooting deaths from 2020 to 2023. Four years ago, 37 such victims died of gunshot wounds, compared with 70 last year. Pyron said that as of April 30, 34 people had died in domestic violence-related shootings in 2024 – a 55 percent increase from the previous year.

The number of domestic violence victims injured, but not killed, in shootings is also increasing, she said. The Network’s latest annual report containing 2023 data has not yet been published.

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