Pass domestic violence law

Chester County officer Diane Watson, Bridget Musteata and Horry County officer Kristen Albrecht with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Victim Advocate Association join Attorney General Alan Wilson at rally for domestic violence reform in the rotunda of the South Carolina Statehouse Jan. 13, 2015. (File/Grace Beahm/Staff)

It was in December of 2014 that the first of a number of bills to get tough on domestic violence was pre-filed in the General Assembly. Since then the House and Senate both have passed bills to address the scourge that puts South Carolina near the top of the list of states where women are in the most danger of being killed by men.

Now with the end of the legislative session looming, it is time for the two chambers to come to a meeting of the minds. Were lawmakers to allow the session to end without taking steps to save people from domestic violence they would essentially be telling voters that they don’t care enough about the problem to work out their differences.

And to pass an anemic bill that leaves guns in the hands of domestic abusers would deliver the same devastating message. If legislators do care, and if they want their constituents to know it, they must get moving.

Reports are that leaders from both houses have been engaged in quiet conversation about a compromise bill. We certainly hope there has been conversation about such an important topic. And we hope that they are at a point now where they can speak publicly with details about a bill that can satisfy people throughout the state.

The public has been calling for legislative action since The Post and Courier published its series on domestic violence, “Till Death Do Us Part.” And polls show they want domestic abusers stripped of firearms. Domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.

Women die here in domestic violence at a rate of one every 12 days.

And now the state’s methods for collecting data are being questioned, and experts suspect domestic violence has been underreported.

A task force formed by Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to release a report this week questioning the reliability of domestic violence statistics.

Red flags included:

■ The numbers being used didn’t add up to those of a subcommittee chaired by Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling.

■ Counties with soaring rates of domestic violence are adjacent to others with little domestic violence but similar populations.

■ Reports showed that alcohol was involved in only few of the cases — not very likely.

■ Counties with demographics prone to domestic violence sometimes had few cases counted.

The manner of collecting data needs to be reviewed and set straight — as does communication among different number-gathering agencies.

But the problem only provides more reason for lawmakers to pass meaningful legislation.

Time grows short as the session’s end looms. The Legislature must take firm steps without further delay to strengthen the laws against domestic violence.