BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Victims of domestic violence say three bills passed in the Louisiana House of Representatives on Thursday will mean more protection for them. They say the measures are significant, given the state has led the nation in domestic violence homicides since 1997.
Following the passage of the House Bills 747, 750 and 753, a group of victims and those who supported the legislation tried to take a photo on the steps of the State Capitol. Outside it was a bit windy. But that breeze, they said, was the presence of lives lost to domestic violence.
"All the angels in heaven say it's a great day and they're flapping their wings," someone in the crowd shouted.
Statistics show in the past two years in Louisiana, 178 people were killed as a result of domestic violence. While hundreds of others are suffering.
"I just can't believe it happened to me and so many other people affected by it also," Pam Allison, a victim, said.
It's that level of violence that brought several women to the State Capitol, waiting for tougher laws to pass.
House Bill 747 increases the penalties for domestic violence offenders and elevates domestic abuse and aggravated assault to the level of crimes of violence. It also makes a second conviction of domestic battery a felony.
House Bill 750 increases the penalty for anyone who violates protective orders. If an officer determines someone has been abused, they can arrest the person they identify as responsible.
House Bill 753 would make it illegal for anyone convicted of domestic abuse to carry a gun for 10 years.
According to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 74 percent of the deaths in recent years were committed with guns.
"I understand we are not going to be able to save everyone, but I do believe we will save lives with these bills," said Rep. Helena Moreno, (D)-New Orleans. She was approached in January about helping to put more teeth in the domestic violence laws.
Victims say more will need to be done, but what happened Thursday was a start.
The bills now move on to the Louisiana Senate for their approval.