If you are a victim and your abuser has a gun or you feel unsafe for other reasons, it is important to work with a victim advocate. The following organizations can help you find an advocate free of charge:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE;
- VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846;
- Any of the local domestic violence programs listed here. This list is not complete, so there might be a program near you that is not listed.
It is also helpful to have a lawyer assist you, particularly when you are seeking a protective order. You can find a lawyer using the California Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from LawHelpCA and on the California Judicial Branch website.
How to Get Protection
What kind of domestic violence protective orders are available in California?
California courts can issue three types of domestic violence protective orders. In each of these orders, the court can help protect you from gun violence or threats of gun violence by an intimate partner:
- Emergency protective orders1*
- Temporary restraining orders2*
- Restraining orders after hearings (“orders of protection”)*3
All respondents* to protective and restraining orders are prohibited by California law from purchasing or possessing* firearms and are required to get rid of any guns they have within 24 hours of being served* with the order.4
How can you get a domestic violence protective order?
Click here to see if you are eligible for a domestic violence protective order in California.
You can find your local court here.
Court forms and California’s official guides for each step of the process can be found here.
What do I do if I do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but I still need protection from someone?
If you do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but need protection from someone (including a stranger, an acquaintance, or another person not covered under a domestic violence protection order), you might qualify for some other type of order. Contact VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846 or a lawyer for more information. You can find a lawyer using the California Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from LawHelpCA and on the California Judicial Branch website.
How can the court help protect you?
In California, respondents* to emergency protective orders, temporary restraining orders, and orders of protection (restraining orders after hearings) are prohibited from possessing* or purchasing guns for as long as the order lasts. The court will:
- Order a respondent to get rid of his/her/their firearms within 24 hours of being served* with the order, by:
- Selling them to a federally licensed firearms dealer;
- Storing them with a federally licensed firearms dealer; or
- Handing them over to law enforcement;
- Order the respondent to submit a receipt called “Proof of Firearms Turned In, Sold, or Stored” to the court within 48 hours receiving the order; and
- Tell the respondent they cannot purchase or possess firearms for the duration of the order.5
At the petitioner’s* request, sometimes courts provide additional protections from gun violence, such as:
- Ordering the respondent to turn over their firearms to local law enforcement immediately;
- Ordering law enforcement to retrieve the respondent’s firearms if the respondent fails to turn them in as required by law;
- Requiring the respondent to appear before the court to personally present a receipt proving they got rid of their guns;
- Directing law enforcement to follow up with the respondent to make sure the respondent got rid of their guns;
- Scheduling a follow up compliance hearing* to ensure the respondent has not accessed additional firearms since the order was issued;
- Ordering law enforcement to go to your home at scheduled times to check in on your safety;
- If the guns are shared marital property, the court can order the sale of the guns and divide the money between you;
- Ordering the respondent to stay away from you, your children, your family, and anyone else in immediate danger, based on the threats and/or actions of the respondent;
- Ordering the respondent not to hurt you or threaten to hurt you in the future;
- Anything else you need to be safe.
How will the court know what you need to protect you from the respondent’s firearms violence?
In your petition* and during any of the hearings* you participate in when you are seeking protection, you will have the opportunity to tell the court about the respondent’s* threats or acts of abuse, especially ones involving firearms. Every situation is different, and it is important to talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. You can find a lawyer using the California Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from LawHelpCA and on the California Judicial Branch website.
Your story will help the court decide what relief* to give you. Whether you are filling out court forms or speaking directly to the court, it is important for you to tell the court about the violence you experienced (working with a lawyer, if you have one), especially if the respondent used or threatened to use a firearm against you, a member of your family, any member of the community, or your pet. Among other things, this may include telling the court:
- About incidents of physical violence or threats of physical violence and include dates wherever you can;
- How the respondent used firearms to hurt or threaten you, your family, your pet(s), or anyone in the community;
- If you fear that the respondent may use firearms violence or threats of firearms violence in the future;
- If the respondent has threatened to harm him/her/themself. This may be a sign that the respondent intends to use a dangerous weapon like a firearm against you, themself, or other people;
- If you can, the type(s), number, and location of firearms the respondent has access to.