Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) A full-time investigator for the Denver District Attorney’s Office reviews handfuls of domestic abuse filings each day. Then, the investigator scours social media and studies provided statements, video footage and other evidence of possible firearms or ammunition at the suspect’s home.
Maggie Conboy, Denver Assistant District Attorney, says the city’s Domestic Violence Firearm Relinquishment program has saved an unquantifiable number of lives.
Removing weapons is an extra step to protect victims. Violent offenders often bond out of jail quickly and contact victims despite protective orders.
“What we know is 45% of domestic violence homicides occur within 90 days of separation, and most within the first few days,” Conboy said.
“Domestic violence victims are exponentially more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to guns, and that’s why it is critical to ensure that firearms are removed as soon as the victim seeks help or that protection order is consented.”
Denver Police Division Chief Ron Thomas said perpetrators used guns in over 85% of Denver homicides in 2021. Police confiscated more than 2,000 guns last year.
Conboy said the Denver DA’s office hoped the program would encourage defendants to relinquish their guns and ammunition.
But the reality is different.
“What we discovered is actually the defense lawyers are interested in working with us because the model is one of harm reduction — we’re not trying to jam up a defendant in court,” she said, explaining that the prosecutors will only use evidence of firearm possession to charge a defendant if they refuse to relinquish the weapon(s).
“The defense lawyer does not want to see something lethal happen, we don’t want to see something lethal happen,” Conboy said. So, defense attorneys started working with the DA’s investigator to turn in weapons.
In 2021, the investigator’s work helped remove 141 weapons from 48 defendants.
In addition to helping prevent violence, the program can prevent accidental deaths and suicides of defendants, Conboy said. Often violent offenders charged with crimes experience mental health issues. The program also may convince defendants to relinquish firearms instead of hiding them.
“The more we get out that guns kill, weapons kill, and that firearms and domestic violence is a lethal combination, the more we get that out to the public, the more I think we begin to normalize the idea that firearms don’t belong in the hands of domestic abusers,” Conboy said.
Denver domestic violence victims can find a one-stop-shop of resources ranging from legal aid to medical help at the Rose Andom Center, 1330 Fox Street. The firearm relinquishment program operates out of the center, and individuals can contact the center with information regarding domestic abusers’ firearm ownership.
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