June 10, 2015– In advance the Delaware Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing today on a bipartisan bill that will enact commonsense changes to Delaware laws to protect domestic violence victims and help reduce abusers’ access to firearms, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, submitted the below statement today for the record in support of the legislation:
“Chairman Henry and distinguished members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony, and thank you for your consideration of this important legislation.
“Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women and families: criminals with guns, domestic abusers with guns, stalkers with guns. That makes gun violence a women’s issue – for women, for families, for you and your constituents.
“As a gun owner, I know that guns themselves are not the problem. The threat comes from dangerous people who have access to guns. And part of the responsibility that comes with being a gun owner is to keep guns away from people who will use them to intimidate, hurt, and kill the most vulnerable among us. This responsibility must be reflected in our laws.
“That’s why S.B. 83 is focused like a laser on keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. That’s why S.B. 83 protects not just spouses, but dating partners and cohabitants, too. That’s why S.B. 83 protects an abused woman when she is at the greatest risk, not just later on in the legal process.
“The facts are clear: When an abuser has access to a gun, the woman is five times more likely to be murdered. A domestic assault involving a gun is 12 times more likely to result in death than other types of domestic assaults. Which helps explain why American women are 11 times more likely to be killed with a firearm than women in similar countries.
“This bill strikes the balance – protecting women and families from danger and protecting the rights and traditions of the responsible and law-abiding.
“ Thank you for your service and consideration. Please support S.B. 83.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 83, which is 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 individuals. 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 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.
In advance of the hearing, Americans for Responsible Solutions also highlighted recent research showing broad support among Delaware voters for the bill’s key components. Among the research’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.
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.