- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia has been ahead of the curve in passing several protections to ban domestic abusers from having guns, but gun safety groups say the state should do more.

Over the past two years, more than a dozen states have strengthened laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, according to a review by The Associated Press.

In 2000, West Virginia made it illegal for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse to have a gun. The law broadly covers spouses, current or former sexual or intimate partners, someone with whom a person has a child, a former or current living mate, parent or guardian, or child.

In 2012, the state began requiring that domestic violence protective orders ban respondents from having guns or ammunitions.

However, West Virginia doesn’t establish a procedure to remove guns from domestic abusers once they are prohibited from having them, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Over the last two years, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Delaware and New Hampshire are among the states that established laws providing guidance about making sure domestic abusers or people under domestic abuse protective orders turn over their guns.

About 15 states allow or require the court issuing a protective order to require abusers to turn in their guns. Fewer states let law enforcement take guns subject to protective orders, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In West Virginia, law enforcement must seize guns they find at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

But the silence on making abusers hand over guns is a dangerous hole in the law, according to Everytown for Gun Safety lawyer Jonas Oransky.

“There’s no accountability, and if the person is already a gun owner, there’s just no process for enforcing the law,” Oransky said.

The West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, however, is not currently on a policy campaign to change that law, said Joyce Yedlosky of the coalition.

In some areas, law enforcement, the courts and other groups have set up procedures to make sure guns are safely transferred, Yedlosky said.

“They’re not in place in every community, so I think that we could expand that,” Yedlosky said.

Federal law already prohibits having a gun for people convicted of a domestic violence-related misdemeanor and those who are subject to permanent domestic violence protective orders. Some states, including West Virginia, have gone beyond that.

FBI records reviewed by AP show guns were used in 65 domestic-related killings of spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners in West Virginia from 2006 to 2014. Of those homicides, 51 were against women.

Generally a gun-friendly place, West Virginia has expanded gun rights in several ways the past few years.

In 2014, West Virginia adopted a law making it impossible for city officials to ban guns at such facilities as city swimming pools, tennis courts, after-school centers and similar recreational venues.

The law allows only people with concealed carry permits to bring guns to those locations, but they must be “out of view and access to others,” or locked in cars and out of sight.

Last year, names and addresses of people with concealed carry permits became shielded from public record requests.

The Republican-led Legislature is currently considering a bill to eliminate the requirement that people first get a permit before they can carry concealed guns. Only a handful of states don’t require concealed carry permits.

Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the same kind of bill last year over safety concerns from law enforcement.

In a slight change of pace, all three branches of state government were on board this year with adding metal detectors to the state Capitol, where carrying guns was already illegal.

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