Police offering to safeguard guns

STRASBURG – For the last few months, dozens of law enforcement agencies around the state have been offering to accept firearms from individuals who are banned from possessing them under family abuse protective orders.

So far, no guns have been turned into the Strasburg Police Department since the law took effect on July 1, but Police Chief Tim Sutherly said his agency is among those willing to store someone’s gun for as long as a protective order is in effect.

“If somebody has an emergency protective order on them where they’re not allowed to possess guns, they can turn them into us until the protection order expires, and they can get them back,” Sutherly said.

Since July 1, state law has banned a person subject to a family abuse protective order from possessing a gun. The person served with the protective order has 24 hours to transfer or sell the gun to another person who is legally allowed to possess a gun.

Sutherly said most people under protective orders seek out a family member or friend when required to surrender a gun. For those who can’t find or don’t want to use a legally eligible individual to safeguard a gun covered by a protective order, police departments and federally licensed firearms dealers may accept the gun, although it is not required of them.

The Strasburg Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Stephens City Police Department are three area law enforcement agencies that have informed the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services that they will accept guns from individuals subject to protective orders.

Sutherly said Strasburg police are accepting firearms from residents within their jurisdiction. Information on whether other departments could or would accept firearms from outside their jurisdictions was not available as of press time on Friday.

“We just keep them in a normal evidence room the same way we would any other evidence,” Sutherly said of the firearms.

“The point is to get the gun away during heated exchanges between the defendant and the significant other,” Sutherly said. “They’re taken away during the heated times and, after a cooling off period, they can have them returned.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.