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WAMC New York News
Wed August 3, 2011
Domestic violence law aims to keep firearms away from offenders; advocates call for similar laws around the country
New Paltz, NY – Advocates for tougher domestic violence laws are applauding a New York measure signed into law this week. However, as WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry reports, there are concerns that similar measures aren't being adopted in other states
New York State lawmakers approved a measure designed to keep firearms out of the hands of those convicted of misdemeanors in domestic violence cases. The new law, sponsored by Poughkeepsie-area State Senator Steve Saland, and lower Hudson Valley Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, gives courts the ability to forward the information of convicted domestic violence offenders on to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, with the person's name then entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Without that ability, the names of domestic violence offenders were not transferred to that system.
While federal law is designed to keep firearms out of the hands of convicted domestic violence offenders, documentation is often lacking, allowing the offender to purchase the weapon. Toni Troop is with Jane Doe Inc, the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. She says the law there prohibits the possession of firearms by those without a firearms identification card, and adds that a conviction related to domestic violence makes a person ineligible for that card.
The problem, though, is that states often have different laws on these types of cases. Michele McKeon is the CEO of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She's thrilled with the new law in New York, but says the loopholes need to be closed elsewhere. McKeon says if a victim happens to be visiting another state, the danger increases, if the laws aren't the same.
In Connecticut, a law to tighten restrictions on gun ownership will take effect in October. That law mandates domestic violence offenders to turn over registered guns to law enforcement agencies or licensed gun dealers. Previously, offenders could give their weapons to any licensed gun holder. Karen Jarmoc heads the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She cites a recent report from the coalition, which shows the use of guns in these types of cases. Jarmoc says guns are clearly the prominent weapon utilized where there is a crime related to domestic violence.
The goal, according to Troop, is to make sure there are uniform laws regarding firearms. She says there will never be a question over rights, if all states are in compliance with federal law.
Advocates for the law say it will enhance the safety of victims, however, among supporters of the measure, there's an understanding that the law, while strong, only pertains to legally purchased firearms, and not those obtained illegally.