Leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time for a survivor of domestic violence. Leaving when a gun is in the home can be fatal.
Many survivors seek protection from the courts as part of their safety plan, most often in the form of a civil order of protection. Judges evaluating and granting civil orders of protection may also include the removal of a firearm from an abusive person, a critical step in safeguarding survivors.
Unfortunately, current state law is unclear about the urgency and process of firearm removal. As a result, too many people using violence and intimidation are able to keep their firearms, leading to further violence in homes and communities across Illinois.
Tragically, this was the case for Little Village resident Karina Gonzalez and her 15-year-old daughter, Daniela, who were shot and killed in July by Karina’s husband. Karina and Daniela’s murder took place two weeks after Karina had received an order of protection from the courts that should have led to the removal of the handgun her husband owned.
The combination of domestic violence and firearms is on the rise in Illinois, with an 11.5% increase in domestic violence shootings in Chicago alone to date compared to last year, according to the city’s violence reduction dashboard Wednesday afternoon. This increase in violence leaves more women and children in jeopardy and leads to tragic, avoidable outcomes.
That’s why domestic violence advocates across our state are teaming up with gun violence prevention advocates to urge the state legislature to pass a common-sense piece of legislation, Karina’s Law, during the fall veto session.
The bill would clarify and strengthen the law around orders of protection, requiring law enforcement to remove a firearm from the person causing harm within 48 hours after a judge reviews the case and orders firearm removal to ensure survivor and community safety.
We cannot simply rely on administrative solutions like revoking a Firearm Owner Identification Card and leaving guns in the hands of those causing harm. The threat from a firearm is only mitigated when the gun is removed from the home until the survivor is safe.
The law would also eliminate a loophole that would allow abusers to simply transfer ownership of a firearm without actually removing the gun from the home.
Domestic violence on the rise
This legislation is critically important as domestic violence is on the rise in Chicago and across our state. Last year, according to a report by The Network Advocating Against Domestic Violence, there were more than 37,000 contacts to the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline, a 15% increase from 2021 and a 50% increase from 2019.
Added to the rise in domestic violence is the proliferation of firearms across our state. The risk of intimate-partner homicide increases by five times when abusers have access to a gun.
Domestic violence-related homicides involving firearms have increased in recent years. According to a report by The Network, there were more than 60 domestic violence-related homicides in Chicago in 2022, a 38% increase from the previous year, and 106 domestic violence shooting incidents statewide.
This increase in lethality disproportionately affects communities of color. In 2022, 84% of domestic violence-related homicides in Chicago impacted Black or Hispanic victims.
Requesting an order of protection is often a dangerous time for a domestic violence survivor, and the criminal justice system must provide adequate support to keep survivors safe.
When survivors are granted an order of protection from the courts, that order must include a clear directive to law enforcement to remove a firearm from the home immediately.
When survivors go to the courts, the courts must work for them.
Sadly, this was not the case for Karina and Daniela. But together, we can strengthen the law and help protect future survivors from the deadly combination of abusers and firearms.
We urge the General Assembly to take action this fall. This common-sense legislation simply cannot wait any longer.
Amanda Pyron is executive director of The Network Advocating Against Domestic Violence. Yolanda Androzzo is executive director of One Aim Illinois.
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