‘Restraining orders save lives’: California AG releases report prior to Supreme Court gun case

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Monday released a report on the links between domestic violence and shootings, one day before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a case that could restrict the power of federal lawmakers to regulate gun possession nationwide.

At the heart of the Supreme Court case, U.S. v. Rahimi, is a Second Amendment challenge to a federal law that disarms people with certain domestic violence restraining orders. Bonta said the argument against the law is that people who’ve committed violence against family or their intimate partners should be allowed to access guns even after a judge has ruled that the victim survivors need court-ordered protections for their safety.

“These are people who have demonstrated a significant danger of abuse, of violence, who have a higher risk of perpetrating future violence, including mass shootings,” Bonta told reporters at a news conference Monday in Sacramento. “I can’t fathom how this is something we are debating.”

The data released by Bonta showed there were more than 670 total domestic violence gun homicides reported statewide between 2018 and 2022. The report’s figures also showed that during the coronavirus pandemic, the number of domestic violence calls involving firearms spiked dramatically while the number of domestic violence restraining order filings declined.

The case before the Supreme Court is the first among dozens of challenges to gun control laws to reach the justices since their decision last year in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. Gov. That decision struck down a New York statute regulating concealed carry weapons, and experts then predicted new legal challenges to similar gun laws throughout the country including in California.

Bonta said domestic violence restraining orders have worked “as a common sense tool for safety” to reduce gun violence, and they must continue to be accessible to protect survivors and the rest of the community.

“This is not about encroaching gun rights,” Bonta said. “This is about protecting the rights, the liberty, the safety, the lives of people who are under serious threat. DVROs have been shown to increase survivor safety and prevent gun violence, including mass shootings.”

The 41-page report from Bonta’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention presents data on the impact of firearm-related domestic violence in California. The report’s data and findings included:

From 1993 to 2019, California had a 63% drop in per capita rates of domestic violence-related calls for law enforcement help involving firearms, a 61% reduction in domestic violence-related gun homicides, a 67% reduction in female-victim gun homicide rates, and an 80% reduction in gun homicide rates for children aged 14 and under.

From 2018 to 2022, California’s female-victim gun homicide rate was about half (46% below) the rate for the rest of the United States. For children 14 and younger, the state’s gun homicide rate was 57% below the rate for the rest of the country.

There have been setbacks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of domestic violence calls involving firearms in California increased by 80% between 2019 and 2021 to the highest number reported in nearly three decades. And court records in California showed a 17% decrease in the number of cases filed seeking the protections of a domestic violence restraining orders.

Bonta said the spike in calls for police help while the restraining orders dropped is a clear example of how effective the court orders removing guns are and what happens when they’re not used.

“This isn’t a theory about what might be a prediction of what is possible,” Bonta said. “It is a retroactive observation that gun violence, domestic violence restraining orders save lives. And California’s data shows it.”