It is not uncommon these days to turn on the news, read in the newspaper, or view news articles on the internet and see devastating reports of gun violence and mass shootings all over the United States.

Mass shootings have a devastating toll on communities. Since 2009, there have been 299 mass shootings in the United States, resulting in 1,678 people shot and killed and 1,087 people shot and wounded.[1] Despite these staggering numbers, these events are relatively less common than gun violence in relation to domestic violence, firearm suicide, or community violence (violence between unrelated individuals). Nonetheless, it is crucial as a community that we take every measure possible to prevent any of these tragedies.

“In abusive situations, the presence of a gun increases the risk of homicide,” says Jaime Garfield-Imus, Director of Legal Services, Empower Yolo. This can include the presence of firearms in domestic violence situations, harassment, and stalking, workplace violence, risk of suicide, the potential for harming others in an action such as a mass shooting, and more, according to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV).[2]

It’s important to understand the intersection between firearms and domestic violence injuries and fatalities. From 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the United States by an intimate partner using a gun.[3] In California there were 1,674 domestic violence fatalities during this same time period, averaging 167 per year.[4] In 2021 there were 82 domestic violence homicides in California.

When firearms are present in a situation where domestic violence is being perpetrated, a survivor is more likely to experience more severe physical abuse, and more likely to end up killed than in situations where firearms are not present. A person who causes harm that has access to a firearm poses a serious threat to victims, making it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.[6] In total, a firearm is used in over half of domestic violence homicides nationwide.[7]

To help address this problem CPEDV launched the Gun Violence and Domestic Violence Fatality Project. Empower Yolo received a one-year grant from the CPEDV to be a service provider in the project and will partner with other agencies, and local law enforcement through the criminal justice system.

Based on the link between domestic violence fatalities and the increase in fatalities when a firearm is present there is a significant need for domestic violence survivors to understand all the remedies available to them when they are seeking protection through the Court.

Empower Yolo’s legal department assists with Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVRO) at clinics throughout Yolo County. In 2022 the legal department provided 321 survivors of crime with restraining order assistance. A DVRO is a civil court order that helps protect people from domestic violence – abuse or threats of abuse when the person being abused and the person causing harm are or have been in an intimate relationship (married or domestic partners, are dating or used to date, live or lived together, or have a child together). It is also when the abused person and the person causing harm are closely related by blood or by marriage. A DVRO allows for additional remedies such as child custody and visitation, attorney fees, move-out orders, and prohibitions on being violent or accessing a home, school, or place of employment. DVROs automatically include firearm and ammunition prohibitions in California, meaning a person who has a DVRO issued against them generally cannot own, purchase, or possess firearms and ammunition.

In some situations a DVRO is not the appropriate remedy for the survivor; however, a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) may be. Through the gun violence grant, Empower Yolo will be expanding its DVRO clinics to include assistance with applying for a GVRO. A GVRO is a civil court order that prohibits someone from having a gun or ammunition. A GVRO can order someone to: not have (possess or own) a gun or ammunition; not buy a gun or ammunition; and turn in any guns and ammunition to the police, sell them to or store them with a licensed gun dealer. A GVRO cannot order someone to: stay away from you or your family members; not contact or go near you, your children, other relatives, or others who live with you; stop abuse or harassment; or move out of your house.[8] A GVRO is designed to protect only the respondent – the restrained person – from harming themselves (i.e., suicide prevention) or to prevent them from having firearms and ammunition when they have made threats but have not abused or harassed specific people.

If you are worried that someone you care about may be a danger to the public, generally if they have access to firearms, a GVRO may be a legal remedy to consider accessing. California’s law makes the following people eligible to petition a court for a GVRO: A law enforcement officer or agency, the respondent’s close family members, including but not limited to a spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild, also teachers and coworkers can apply. The petitioner must meet the relationship requirement and file in the appropriate County.

The GVRO is an extremely important remedy because, if granted, it will prohibit someone from having guns and ammunition during the duration of the restraining order, which can be issued for a short period or up to 5 years. Furthermore, a GVRO is another legal remedy available to remove firearms from a dangerous person deemed to pose a significant risk to themselves and others.

The process to petition for a DVRO and/or GVRO can be complex and difficult for survivors to understand and navigate, which is why Empower Yolo’s legal advocates are crucial to support survivors through the application process. “This program is important because gun violence affects all of us. This is another tool in our “toolbox” to help reduce and prevent violence in our communities,” says Garfield-Imus.

Through this project legal advocates will be offering assistance with petitions for GVROs, doing community outreach, and will be giving presentations on how GVROs can help people in crisis stay safe. The legal department will be trained on how to petition for GVROs and will educate the community on the purpose, intent, and enforceability of GVROs.

Empower Yolo’s goals, in support of the CPEDV’s campaign, are to educate family members, employers, teachers, law enforcement professionals, and other community members on the link between gun violence and domestic violence, provide legal assistance to clients seeking protective orders to address gun violence-related threats and other community strategies that support gun violence reduction. Empower Yolo will promote the message that gun-related homicides and suicides are preventable by providing information and raising awareness in the community. Empower Yolo’s campaign to promote awareness of gun violence, firearm suicide, community violence, and domestic violence will also include efforts to target the rural and Spanish-speaking communities in Yolo County.

The community can get involved by following us on social media (Facebook @empoweryolo, Instagram, and Twitter @empower_yolo) and engaging in dialogue. More information will be available at

It is imperative that our communities, all of us, especially survivors of domestic violence, are aware of options for reducing risk when seeking safety, particularly as it relates to access to firearms. This includes understanding the range of legal remedies available and the protections provided under the law designed to increase safety by reducing the likelihood that someone who has become prohibited from having firearms will be able to keep or obtain them.

We can make a difference and save lives by raising awareness and ensuring access to safety planning and key legal remedies where appropriate. “We all want to keep families and communities safe by preventing injuries, fatalities, and trauma from gun violence,” said Garfield-Imus.

[1] Everytown for Gun Safety. Data updated January 26, 2023.

[2] Preventing Gun Violence & Reducing Firearms-Related Domestic Violence Injuries and Fatalities, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

[3] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplemental Homicide Data (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001-2012).

[4] California Department of Justice Homicide in California data. Available at

[6] Campbell JC, Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite case-control study. Am J Public Health. 2003 Jul;93(7):1089-97. doi: 10.2105/ajph.93.7.1089. PMID: 12835191; PMCID: PMC1447915.

[7]Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), 2014-2018. See also, James Alan Fox and Emma E. Fridel, “Gender Differences in Patterns and Trends in US Homicide, 1976–2015,” Violence and Gender 4, no. 2 (2017): 37–43.

[8] See

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