By analyzing a number of Washington databases, The New York Times identified scores of gun-related crimes committed by people subject to recently issued civil protection orders, including murder, attempted murder and kidnapping. In at least five instances over the last decade, women were shot to death less than a month after obtaining protection orders. In at least a half-dozen other killings, the victim was not the person being protected but someone else. There were dozens of gun-related assaults like the one Ms. Holten endured.
The analysis — which crosschecked protective orders against arrest and conviction data, along with fatality lists compiled by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence — represents at best a partial accounting of such situations because of limitations in the data. The databases were missing some orders that have expired or been terminated. They also did not flag the use of firearms in specific crimes, so identifying cases required combing through court records.
Washington’s criminal statutes, however, contain a number of gun-specific charges, like unlawful possession of a firearm and aiming or discharging one, offering another window into the problem. Last year, The Times found, more than 50 people facing protection orders issued since 2011 were arrested on one of these gun charges.
In some instances, of course, laws mandating the surrender of firearms might have done nothing to prevent an attack. Sometimes the gun used was not the one cited in the petition. In other cases, no mention of guns was ever made. But in many cases, upon close scrutiny, stricter laws governing protective orders and firearms might very well have made a difference.