Will Protect Victims of Domestic Violence
October 2, 2015 – Dozens of advocates for domestic violence prevention and sensible gun regulation applauded today Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s signed a bipartisan bill that addresses gaps in Delaware law to help protect domestic violence victims from abusers with access to firearms.
“Today is a victory for common sense and a victory for safer communities,” said former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Co-Founder of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), ARS partnered with the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence (DeCAGV) and the state’s Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV) to pass SB-83 with bipartisan majorities in both houses of the Delaware General Assembly.
“In the face of calls from Delaware’s domestic violence survivors and public safety officials, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a law that helps keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and protect vulnerable people and their families,” said Giffords. “And with Governor Markell’s signature now affixed to this bipartisan proposal, Delaware will be a safer place to live.”
The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) and Rep. Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear), participated in the signing ceremony. Attorney General Matt Denn also supported SB-83.
Liane Sorenson, chair of DeCAGV’s Educational Fund and former Republican state senator praised the legislation. “I’ve been working on protecting Delaware’s domestic violence survivors for 23 years, and I was on the Delaware Domestic Violence Coordinating Council during my career as a legislator. We are still fighting these battles today and this commonsense law will make a difference, and it will save lives. Today is yet another sign that Republicans and Democrats can come together around responsible solutions that help limit domestic abusers’ access to guns and protect vulnerable people and families,” said .
The bill, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, and was co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican legislators, will protect victims of domestic violence and dating violence by helping prevent domestic abusers’ access to guns, without affecting the Second Amendment rights of law abiding people. The law will:
Prevent individuals convicted of dating partner violence within the past five years from buying or owning guns. Under current Delaware law, when a dating abuser or a former cohabitant is convicted in a court of law beyond reasonable doubt of “misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence” he or she is permitted to purchase or possess a gun. This poses a serious danger to the victim and his or her family. This legislation will prohibit abusers who have been convicted for a misdemeanor crime of a domestic violence when the victim was a substantive dating partner or when the criminal offense happened within 3 years from when the relationship ended from owning or possessing guns for 5 years.
Protect victims who have fled their homes from their abuser. Current Delaware law only prohibits gun possession by a person convicted of victimizing a cohabitant if they were living together at the time of the crime. This means that an abuser does not lose his or her gun eligibility if he or she is convicted for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence after the victim fled the home. This legislation would ensure convicted abusers are prohibited from possessing firearms for five years when the criminal offense happened within 3 years from when the victim fled the home.
Help enforce existing law by requiring that people subject to a Protection From Abuse order, who have been instructed to surrender their firearms, identify to the court how they have done so. The bill would also help ensure that guns are surrendered pursuant to a PFA order by clarifying that the abuser must turn over these weapons immediately upon the request of a law enforcement officer or, if no request is made, within 24 hours at a staffed police station.
Congresswoman Giffords visited the Delaware State Capitol in May and called on lawmakers to pass SB 83 and help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. A survey of registered Delaware voters conducted on behalf of Americans for Responsible Solutions found that a broad majority of Delawareans – including gun owners – support the bill’s key elements. Click here to read a summary of the research’s findings.
Fifty percent of fatal and near-fatal domestic violence incidents in Delaware involve a gun.
Between 1996 and 2013, guns in Delaware were used in 40 homicides of intimate partners, and in 13 homicides of other people in domestic violence incidents (family members, children, and bystanders killed in these shootings). Guns were also used in 17 domestic violence-related suicides.
Nationally, women in the U.S. are 11 times likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries, and more than half of all murders of America’s women are committed with a gun. Abused women are also five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if that individual has access to a firearm.