A state with one of the worst records for criminal domestic violence in the country needs new laws that are tough enough to make a difference.
It’s time for the S.C. Legislature to get off the dime and make that happen.
Last week, Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, who has led his chamber’s efforts to reform domestic violence legislation, and House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, had a cordial meeting on the subject. Both emerged saying that there is enough time to pass a bill.
That’s encouraging. But the sticking point so far has been how to stop batterers from possessing firearms.
The answer is clear: Just do it.
The Senate bill would strip convicted batterers of their gun rights. But the House bill includes a loophole large enough to slip a howitzer through. It allows prosecutors and judges to plead out domestic violence charges as assault and battery. Without a CDV conviction, the gun ban could be avoided.
Two statewide polls overwhelmingly indicate that people don’t want violent offenders to have firearms. For good reason: As reported in The Post and Courier’s Pulitzer Prize winning series, “Till Death Do Us Part,” 63 percent of domestic homicides involve guns.
Batterers have demonstrated they are unable or unwilling to control their rage and manage their behavior. Having guns at their disposal could make bad situations not only worse, but deadly.
Those legislators whose No. 1 goal is preserving gun rights need to consider who it is they represent and reconsider their position. They need to take actions aimed at protecting victims rather than protecting gun ownership. Even the National Rifle Association has scaled back its public opposition to stricter domestic violence laws.
Each legislator should imagine that his daughter or niece or granddaughter is in a relationship with a violent man. Would he then think twice about expecting the law to strip the abuser of his guns?
Both the Senate and the House have passed bills that would toughen consequences for perpetrators of domestic violence. Those changes are important if judges are to mete out appropriate penalties.
The House bill would require public schools to teach students about domestic violence, in an attempt to change the culture in South Carolina. Students would learn what domestic violence is and learn that it is not acceptable behavior.
It was in September that a special House committee started working on reforming the state’s domestic violence laws. Since August, 18 women and 12 men have been murdered in domestic disputes.
Of course, a new law will not eliminate domestic homicides. The toughest penalties won’t do that.
But punishing people in ways that are commensurate with their crimes would keep some people out of harm’s way.
And keeping guns out of the hands of offenders would remove one easy way for the heat of the moment to end up in death.
These are common sense solutions. Legislators should make them happen this year.