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House panel considers proposed task force to study domestic violence, firearm surrenders

Statistics show that responding to domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous situations police officers face, especially if firearms are in that volatile mix.

If responding officers must also deal with someone brandishing a gun that must legally be surrendered, for example due to an extreme risk protection order, that amps up the circumstances.

“There’s been a lot of information indicating that that process does not work very well. We want to make sure that works much better,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul).

He sponsors HF4387 that would establish a Task Force on Domestic Violence and Firearms to:

  • review existing laws that require the surrender of firearms by individuals subject to an order for protection, subject to an extreme risk protection order, or convicted of domestic assault, harassment, or stalking;
  • identify best practices to ensure the surrender of firearms that prioritize the safety of peace officers, victims, and others;
  • identify policies and procedures that reduce the danger to peace officers and other emergency responders called to an incident involving domestic violence; and
  • make policy and funding recommendations to the Legislature by Feb. 1, 2025.

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee approved the bill on a voice vote Tuesday evening and sent it to the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

State laws mandating how law enforcement agencies must serve protection and harassment restraining orders can also be changed to make them more efficient, thus benefiting victims, Pinto said.

To that end, when a respondent appears at a hearing through remote technology and is told the court will issue an order, the bill would eliminate the requirement that a sheriff or a sheriff’s deputy locate the respondent and hand over the documents personally.

In those situations, orders could be served via email or the U.S. Postal Service.

“The proposed change does not decrease access to justice for the respondent, or change their right to contest a protection order,” wrote Elsa Swenson, leader of community-based legal advocacy at Missions Inc. Programs. “It simply prevents them from having to be personally served by law enforcement more than once, and closes a gap in the service.”

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