Firearms and Intimate Partner Violence

Program Overview

Firearms in the home pose a serious threat to the safety of women survivors of intimate partner violence and their children. The federal government and states have implemented laws to restrict access to firearms among individuals subject to a domestic violence protection order or convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime, yet loopholes in the legislation remain and the laws are often not enforced.

Moreover, even when communities strive to enforce firearms surrender laws, the protection these laws offer may not benefit those who choose not to seek help from the criminal and civil justice systems due to systemic racism and oppression in these systems.

With support from the Joyce Foundation, this project forms a community of practice that brings together members of jurisdictions interested in increasing safety from gun violence for domestic violence survivors. Through convenings, webinars, working groups, and a list serv, the project enables participants to share promising practices for increasing survivor safety and highlight challenges and opportunities. It also explores the differential impact of gun violence on survivors from diverse communities and the need to both enforce firearm restrictions and develop alternative approaches to enhance survivor safety.

Publications from the Field

Domestic Violence and Firearms: Research on Statutory Interventions

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Women Under the Gun: How Gun Violence Affects Women and 4 Policy Solutions to Better Protect Them

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Intimate Partner Violence and Firearms

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Issue Experts

Cynthia Hess

Position: Chief Operating Officer, IWPR

Cynthia Hess is Chief Operating Officer at IWPR and Scholar in Residence at American University. In her role, Cynthia oversees the operations of the Institute while working with program staff to support the execution of research and other projects. As COO, Cynthia serves as a member of the executive leadership team within the organization and works closely with the President and staff to develop and implement organizational systems and processes to maximize efficiency and support future growth.

Prior to her position as COO, Cynthia served as Associate Director of Research, directing IWPR’s research on numerous issues, including the status of women in the states, workforce development, and violence against women. Cynthia directed IWPR’s Economic Security for Survivor Project funded by the Office on Violence Against Women and led a national survey of survivors in transitional housing, shelters, and other domestic violence programs, publishing the results in the report Dreams Deferred: The Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Survivors’ Education, Careers, and Economic Security. Under her tenure, IWPR expanded its flagship project on the status of women to include research on violence against women and launched the website statusofwomendata.org. Cynthia received her Ph.D. in Theology from Yale University and her A.B. from Davidson College.

Cynthia Hess

Chief Operating Officer, IWPR

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Alicia Nicols, LSW

Position: Deputy Director, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms

Alicia Nichols, LSW, is the Director of Innovation at the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP) and serves as the Deputy Director of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms (a project of BWJP). Advocating for victims of violence for nearly 18 years, her work is rooted in the values of social justice, racial equity, accountability, and healing. She led the restorative justice program at the Minnesota Department of Corrections and advocated for victims of violence at the Office of Justice Programs in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, and Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center. Alicia served on the board of directors for the Minnesota Social Services Association for 11 years including a term as board president. Ms. Nichols holds degrees in Social Work and Human Relations and Multicultural Education and is licensed as a social worker in Minnesota.

Alicia Nicols, LSW

Deputy Director, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms

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David Keck

Position: roject Director, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms

David Keck has been the Project Director of BWJP’s National Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms since its inception in January 2017. He provides training and technical assistance on the effective enforcement and implementation of domestic violence-related firearm prohibitions. Prior to joining BWJP, David served as Court Commissioner for Winnebago County, Wisconsin, for ten years. During this time, he helped develop a protocol for firearms surrender in domestic violence civil protection order cases, which became the framework for Wisconsin’s SAFE Act, passed in 2014. In 2008 David also co-founded the Winnebago Free Legal Assistance Clinic and has been the Director ever since. Prior to this, he spent thirteen years as a Trial Staff Attorney with the Wisconsin State Public Defender in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, from 1993 until 2006.Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, David graduated from University of Puget Sound School of Law in Tacoma, Washington 1992.

David Keck

roject Director, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms

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Kristine Lizdas

Position: Legal Policy Director for the Battered Women’s Justice Project

Kristine Lizdas is Legal Policy Director for the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), a national resource center on domestic violence. She oversees BWJP’s national custody and protection order projects, as well as BWJP’s National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms and the associated Safer Families, Safer Communities project. Kristine writes and teaches on the implementation and enforcement of domestic violence firearm prohibitions, gender discrimination issues, criminal and family law practice, and restorative justice. Kristine has served as faculty for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Judicial Institute on Domestic Violence, the Center for Court Innovation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Kristine has represented clients through the Volunteer Family Law Program of the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, and asylum applicants with Advocates for Human Rights. She is licensed to practice law in Minnesota and Illinois.

Kristine Lizdas

Legal Policy Director for the Battered Women’s Justice Project

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Upcoming  Events

Building a Community of Practice: Increasing Survivor Safety from Firearms  

This day-long convening will explore the structural factors that contribute to gun violence and the intersection of this violence with domestic violence, effective solutions to reducing the threat of gun violence in intimate partner relationships, and current efforts to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, both within and outside of the justice system.

Intimate Partner Violence and Community Violence 

This webinar will discuss the intersection of intimate partner violence and community violence. Participants will explore Institutional Analysis (IA) as an approach that communities can use to identify problematic institutional practices, typically within system responses (e.g. legal, social services, healthcare, education, etc.), which create barriers to victim safety and offender accountability. A panel of experts will then discuss community-based strategies to reduce intimate partner violence and community violence without criminal and/or civil system interventions.

Public Health Approaches to Reducing Intimate Partner Violence and Gun Violence  

Intimate partner violence and gun violence in the United States are inextricably linked, affecting millions of women, families, and communities across the country. In this webinar, a panel of public health experts will explore these connections and share public health approaches to intervening in intimate partner violence and reducing the risk of gun violence.

Advisory Committee

Berryl Anderson
Chief Magistrate Judge
Dekalb County, GA

Becky Owens Bullard
Senior Director of Programs
Metro Nashville Office of Family Safety
Nashville, TN

Sasha Cotton
Director, Office on Violence Prevention
Minneapolis, MN

Dabney Evans
Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies
Hubert Department of Global Health
Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
Atlanta, GA

Lauren Hulak
Assistant Professor
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, GA

Lt. Valerie Martinez
LaFource Parish Sherriff’s Office
LaFourche, LA

Hailey Nolasco
Director of RISE
Center for Court Innovation

Sandra Shanahan
Program Manager
Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit
Seattle, WA

Randi Smith
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Trauma/Surgical Critical Care
Grady Memorial Hospital
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, GA

Rob Valente
Policy Consultant
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Washington, DC

Julia Weber
Implementation Director
Giffords Law Center
San Francisco, CA