Perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) often reoffend, and firearm access increases risk of severe injury or fatality. Research indicates most IPV perpetrators exhibit generalist reoffending patterns not restricted to subsequent IPV crimes (Hilton & Eke, 2016). In a longitudinal study following IPV offenders for 7.5 years, 23.7% were arrested for a new IPV assault, 38.7% for a non-IPV crime, and 15.0% for a non-IPV violent crime (Hilton & Eke, 2016). A similar study observed even higher estimates: 60.2% were arrested for an IPV crime and 57.3% for a non-IPV crime during the 10-year follow-up period (Klein & Tobin, 2008). Approximately 4 in 10 homicide perpetrators, irrespective of victim-offender relationship, have a prior record of IPV (Iratzoqui & McCutcheon, 2018).
Prior research identifies an association between a history of violent misdemeanor convictions among handgun purchasers and increased risk of subsequent arrest for a violent crime; the risk associated specifically with an IPV criminal history remains largely unexplored. Given the risk of re-offending by IPV perpetrators and the potential lethality of firearm access in the context of IPV, federal law prohibits persons convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from acquiring or possessing a firearm (Title 18 U.S.C., § 921(a) (33) (A), § 922(g) (9)).
Similarly, persons subject to a protective order protecting an intimate partner are prohibited from purchasing or owning firearms or ammunition while the order is in effect. Multiple states have enacted policies to expand protections against firearm involved IPV. For example, 33 states have statutes requiring the submission of records on domestic violence crimes to the national instant criminal background check system, extending prohibition protections to crimes against dating partners, and/or authorizing or mandating courts to order relinquishment of firearms for domestic violence misdemeanor convictions (Giffords Law Center, 2021). Evaluations of federal and state prohibitions related to misdemeanor IPV convictions (Raissian, 2016) and domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs) (Vigdor & Mercy, 2006; Zeoli &Webster, 2010) indicate associations with reductions in firearm intimate partner homicide and intimate partner homicide.
The current study examined a cohort (group) of 76,311 California adults who legally purchased a handgun in 2001 and followed them through 2013. Compared with purchasers who had no criminal history at the time of purchase, those with a history of only IPV charges were at increased risk of subsequent arrest for a violent (i.e., murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault; and an IPV crime).
Purchasers with both IPV and non-IPV charges demonstrated the greatest risk of re-arrest relative to those with no criminal history. Despite the strength of the relationship between IPV and subsequent arrest, a small proportion of handgun purchasers with an IPV criminal history were re-arrested for firearm violence crimes, limiting application for risk assessment purposes. Results affirm prior research identifying IPV as a risk factor for future offending.
(The expanded abstract is excerpted and adapted from the article cited above).