Palmetto Sunrise: S.C. Senate’s domestic violence debate to double as Second Amendment skirmish

The South Carolina Statehouse. Grace Beahm/Staff

The domestic violence debate expected to begin Tuesday in the S.C. Senate may turn out to be as much about guns as battered loved ones.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee previously put the bill onto the Senate floor, it gave an indication of the fight to come.

The domestic violence bill includes a provision that would take guns from anyone convicted of a domestic violence charge. Federal law already includes the ban, but South Carolina doesn’t have its own legislation to enforce it or ensure that abusers comply. A competing House bill has other provisions but, despite some initial agreement on the issue, the introduced bill doesn’t include the gun ban.

Sen. Larry Martin’s bill also would take away the gun rights of anyone who has had a protective order in a domestic violence case against him.

Guns were used in 64 percent of all domestic violence killings of women in South Carolina over the last 10 years, a Post and Courier analysis has found as part of a award-winning series on the issue called “Till Death Do Us Part.”

Aside from the gun provisions, Martin’s bill restructures criminal domestic violence laws into a tiered system of degrees based on the severity of the crime, with escalating penalties that range from 30 days in jail to 10 years in prison. It also requires those charged with domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature to attend a batterer-intervention program and allows courts to grant permanent no-contact orders to prevent abusers from harassing victims, among other provisions.

“We in state government have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in South Carolina, and tragically, that too often ends up being members of an abuser’s household,” said Judiciary Chairman Sen. Larry Martin, the bill’s sponsor, in a statement. “South Carolina has been among the worst in the nation in domestic violence for far too long, and I’m hopeful the full Senate will address this bill quickly.”

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