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Overcoming The Domestic Violence Gun Law Gotcha

Why more states need to enforce the federal mandate

  • July 17, 2015
  • By domesticshelters.org
Overcoming The Domestic Violence Gun Law Gotcha

It’s one of those laws that would save lives if enforced regularly but, for myriad reasons, often flies under the radar of local law enforcement. Under the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment or Domestic Violence Gun Ban, which amends the Federal Gun Act of 1968, persons convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, or who are subject to a domestic violence protective order, are prohibited from possessing guns.

That said, each state maintains their own individual laws—some more lenient, others stricter, but all must abide by the basic federal law. Unfortunately, most states do not have a mandatory state process in effect requiring offenders to surrender their guns. As of last year, 41 states did not have such laws in place.

One of those states is Texas, namely Dallas County. The Dallas Morning News found that offenders weren’t properly informed on how to obey the law and no follow-up appointments were happening. In one devastating situation, a 27-year-old man who had a family violence protective order against him killed a 28-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant with their child, using a gun he wasn’t legally permitted to have. Neither mother nor baby survived.

But as of early May, Dallas County is getting on track with the implementation of a new program which requires individuals convicted of a domestic violence crime or under a restraining order because of domestic violence, to turn over their firearms at a local gun range or give them to an approved third party.

While laws alone will not entirely solve the problem of abusers using guns against their victims, the laws have been proven to make a difference. For instance, in states where background checks are required for handgun sales, 38 percent fewer women have been shot to death by an intimate partner, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

One wonders if the change in Dallas County was prompted by a spike in domestic violence deaths in 2013 that brought that region to the top of the list for highest number of women killed by intimate partners. Twenty women died that year at the hands of their partners.

South Carolina, also one to not largely enforce the Domestic Violence Gun Ban, has recently been trying to turn things around. The legislature just passed a bill that enforces tougher penalties for domestic violence crimes and bans gun ownership for 10 years. This is welcome news for a state that’s been ranked No. 2 in the country for women murdered by intimate partners. But it’s not all settled yet—Governor Nikki Haley has yet to sign it. You can help protect South Carolina and show your support of the bill by filling out this form.

“There will always be ways for people to sidestep laws. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to improve the laws and the process, because data shows enforcement makes a difference in saving lives,” said Ruth Glenn, executive director of National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “In addition to the states carrying through on the federal law, the laws prohibiting possession need to expand to include those convicted of stalking and dating abuse.”

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that dating partners are now responsible for the majority of intimate partner homicides, when compared to spouses.

While some will debate this topic for various perspectives, the facts about the role of guns in escalating domestic violence are indisputable.

The presence of a gun makes it five times more likely domestic violence will become murder. Domestic violence assaults involving a gun are 12 times more likely to result in death than those using other weapons or bodily force. In 2011, nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were at the hands of intimate partners.

If you believe an abuser has a gun, contact your local law enforcement or call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE to talk to an advocate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.