Deadly nexus

Domestic violence prosecutor thinks the proposed law is needed in Sacramento County

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the May 10, 2018, issue.

Sacramento County Assistant District Attorney Paul Durenberger estimates that in the 15 years he’s been on the county’s Domestic Violence Death Review Team, there have been 150 homicides connected to spousal abuse, with at least half of those involving firearms.

A bill currently in the state legislature could change that calculus.

Senate Bill 1200, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, would enhance California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order process, which allows for firearm confiscation if their owners pose a threat. The bill would also end fees attached to requesting gun restraining orders, along with making ammunition confiscatable when judges sign off.

Julie Bornhoeft, a spokeswoman for WEAVE Inc., which provides domestic violence crisis intervention, said the orders are “another tool if you have someone who may be a danger to themselves or others.” The orders might also help curb a sobering stat: Bornhoeft said that the likelihood of a murder in a domestic violence situation increases 500 percent when there’s a gun in the house.

SB 1200 passed the Senate Committee on Public Safety on April 17 and was heard Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The latter committee placed the bill in its suspense file, a holding spot pending further review by the legislature for proposed laws with more than $150,000 in estimated public costs.

The bill could have at least one powerful opponent. A National Rifle Association website listed the bill in March as one to oppose, writing that “the sponsor has been hostile toward constitutional rights.” Two gun lobby representatives were at Monday’s hearing to oppose another firearm-related bill up for review, though they didn’t address the committee about SB 1200.

Regardless, Durenberger’s hopeful.

“This law could save lives,” Durenberger told SN&R. “I’m not sure how many, but wouldn’t one be enough?”