May 7, 2015 – At a press conference today with former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the Delaware State Capitol, Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington South, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Delaware City, and leaders in Delaware’s domestic violence prevention community announced new bipartisan legislation that will enact commonsense changes to Delaware laws to protect domestic violence victims and help reduce abusers’ access to firearms.
Women in domestic abuse situations are five times more likely to be murdered if their abuser has access to a gun. The legislation, Senate Bill 83, which is being co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican legislators, would 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 bill would:
Prevent individuals convicted of dating partner violence within the past five years from buying or owning guns. Current Delaware law prohibits people convicted of “misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence” within the last five years from possessing firearms, but this term does not include domestic abuse in a dating relationship. 12 other states already prohibit gun possession for convicted abusers of dating partners.
Ensure people convicted of a violent misdemeanor against a former cohabitant (person who lived with the perpetrator during the past five years) can’t legally buy or own guns. Current Delaware law only prohibits gun possession by a person convicted of victimizing a cohabitant if they lived together at the time of the crime. This means that an abuser can still access guns if he or she is convicted of a crime that occurred after (or because) the victim moved out.
Ensure people subject to an emergency Protection From Abuse order can’t buy guns. Nineteen other states already prohibit gun purchases by at least some people who are subject to ex parte domestic violence protective orders, which is when the risk of violence is often greatest.
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.
As the bill was introduced, Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by Congresswoman Giffords and her husband, retired Navy combat veteran and astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, announced new research showing broad support among likely 2016 voters in Delaware for the bill’s key components.
Among the survey’s findings:
70% support preventing individuals who have been convicted of domestic abuse against a dating partner from owning a gun, with 44% strongly supporting it.
74% support preventing individuals who have been convicted of violent or threatening misdemeanors from owning a gun, including 47% who strongly support it.
70% support prohibiting individuals who have a temporary domestic abuse restraining order from owning or possessing a gun, with 43% strongly support.
77% of Delaware voters support requiring individuals who have been convicted of domestic abuse to turn in any guns they own to law enforcement, including 55% who strongly support it.
The research also found that nearly two-thirds of gun owners in Delaware support each of the bill’s main provisions. A summary of this new research can be found here.
“Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women. That makes gun violence a women’s issue – for mothers, for families, for me and you,” said Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a gun owner and strong supporter of the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership. “Women can lead the way. Together, we can change our laws.”
“The goal of this legislation is to remove weapons from the mix when there is domestic violence occurring and the victim has sought the protection of the courts,” Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said.
“Victims of domestic violence deserve protection from their abusers,” said Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington South, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.“Among other things, this bill makes sure victims of dating violence are protected in the same way victims in more defined relationships already are – by prohibiting their abusers from possessing firearms. “Domestic violence is a scourge on our state and we must do all we can to ensure people who have already exhibited violent behavior can’t access to guns.”
“I find it appalling that there have been 40 gun-related homicides involving intimate partners in Delaware during the past 17 years. Some of these are situations where if we had some protections in place to prevent the abuser from having access to a gun, the victim might still be alive today,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Delaware City. “That is why we are here introducing this bill. We know that domestic abuse situations are five times more likely to be fatal if the abuser has access to a gun. The answer is simple: Preventing these individuals from having access to guns will lead to fewer homicides and save lives.”
“I’ve been involved in the issue of domestic violence for 23 years and I was on the Delaware Domestic Violence Coordinating Council the whole time I was in the legislature. We are still fighting these battles today and this legislation will make a difference,” said Liane Sorenson, Director, Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence and former Republican State Senator.
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. Fifty percent of fatal and near-fatal domestic violence incidents in Delaware involve a gun.
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.