New bill aims to keep guns out of hands of accused abusers

New bill aims to keep guns out of hands of accused abusers
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When legislation and issues of domestic violence cross paths, the end goal is making sure victims are safe and to keep guns out of the hands of offenders. Senate Bill 231 strengthens those provisions.

“We try to do our best to be proactive in dealing with domestic violence incidents, especially involving firearms,” said Senator Jean-Paul “JP” Morrell, D-New Orleans, author of the bill.

Senator Morrell says although this law isn’t new in terms of making it illegal for accused abusers to tote a gun (legislation on the subject was passed years ago) it does spell out for law enforcement their role in making it happen. Senator Morrell says a previous law, authored by former Representative Helena Moreno, had the idea to get guns out of the hands and homes of potential violators through the help of law enforcement. Sheriff’s office deputies had the responsibility of removing the guns, but weren’t given a clear plan.

“The bill does two things. First, it fixes the law and spells out the process that law enforcement has. The responsibility that proceedings are brought against someone to vest them of their firearms until that process is done,” the senator said.

Morrell also added a few new provisions to the law. Now, a convicted or accused abuser has to tell a judge in open court how many guns they own and where they’re located. Sheriff’s office deputies are tasked with removing them within 48 hours. East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore says this gives agencies more teeth to act. “It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person,” Moore said. “So taking that gun away is, surely for a lot of people, significant for us and hopefully helps the victim have some peace of mind.”

If the accused lies to the court about how many firearms they have or where they’re located, they will be considered in contempt of court and placed in jail. Morrell says that will, “hang over their heads.”

On top of that, if a potential abuser attempts to buy a gun while under a protective order, the seller must report it to law enforcement, and law enforcement will then alert the victim.

“Beyond the actual incident, there is the lingering almost post-traumatic stress of waiting for when the other shoe will drop, waiting for when their abuser will abuse them again,” Morrell said.

The DA says any law that attempts to separate a gun and a repeat offender is a step towards providing peace of mind to victims.

“We have seen domestic violence homicides here in the parish and most of them are by guns. We also see, not only here in the parish, but statewide, nationwide that levels of violence increase right before or after court appearances,” Moore said. “Surely knowing now there’s a better chance that the guns are removed from people’s hands is surely beneficial to us.”

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