Aristide Economopoulos/for NJ Monitor
In Michigan, those convicted on domestic violence-related charges aren’t barred for any period of time from possessing or carrying a firearm until violence escalates to a felony. Lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to extend gun restrictions to those who are convicted of domestic violence related misdemeanors.
Domestic violence situations where a gun is present increases the risk of homicide by 500%, according to a study cited by The U.S. Department of Justice and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Currently, those convicted of a felony are barred from possessing, carrying or distributing firearms for a three year period after they have completed the stipulations of their sentence. The ban can last as long as five years in the case of “specified felonies” such as those involving threats or use of physical force.
However, domestic assault, where proof of injury is not required, isn’t considered a felony until the third offense. Aggravated domestic assault, where a person “inflicts serious or aggravated injury” without intent to murder, isn’t a felony until it happens a second time.
Bills in the Michigan House and Senate introduced Thursday would extend firearms bans on offenders convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence-related charges and lengthen to the period of time a person convicted will face a ban to eight years after they complete all elements of their sentence.
Bill sponsor Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said in a media release Thursday the bills come from longstanding conversations with gun violence prevention experts.
“We’ve seen how firearms and domestic violence are a dangerous combination, yet our current state laws leave open a loophole that can be exploited by abusers to obtain a firearm and wreak deadly havoc,” Chang said. “This legislation has had bipartisan support for many years and serves as a common-sense solution to the problem and will protect survivors in our state from further abuse.”
Violence at the hands of an intimate partner is very prevalent in the U.S. affecting millions of people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A survey from the CDC says 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men report experiencing “severe physical violence” by an intimate partner at some point in their life.
Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw), who is sponsoring the House version of the domestic violence bills, has introduced the legislation in the past. But O’Neal notes this year, after the Democratic-controlled Legislature has passed several gun reform bills signed into law, it’s important to keep the momentum going and get legislation to help survivors of domestic violence approved.
“We’ve made historic progress this year to combat gun violence in our state. At the Capitol, we continue our work to keep Michigan communities and families safe,” O’Neal said in a media release Thursday. “Survivors of domestic violence have endured enough. We must put in safeguards that will keep deadly firearms out of the hands of convicted abusers.”
A 2021 report from the Bureau of Justice noted that the percentage of female victims murdered by an intimate partner was five times higher than for their male counterparts, with 34% of female victims murdered that year being killed by an intimate partner, compared to about 6% for male victims.
“The tentacles of the trauma and grief go everywhere,” Rick Omilian told the Advance earlier this year in an interview about the loss of his daughter, Maggie Wardle, to intimate partner violence. Rick and Martha Omilian’s daughter was killed in 1999 at age 19 by an ex-boyfriend. Now they say this legislation could save families from experiencing the same pain.
“Our daughter was shot and killed by an intimate partner, and while nothing can bring her back or undo the pain our family has gone through, this common-sense bill would help create a safer future where no family has to experience what ours has,” the Omilians, who are volunteers with the Michigan chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement Thursday. “We are so grateful our lawmakers are standing up and taking action to protect victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence.”
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