Bill would remove accountability of gun-owning domestic violence offenders

Posted at 5:16 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-09 12:56:09-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Domestic violence advocates are pushing back after a bill passes the House, that could do away with a measure to hold offenders accountable.

Currently, convicted felons are not allowed to have firearms. While domestic violence is a misdemeanor, if convicted, offenders also lose their right to own a firearm by state and federal law. There is a form that convicted domestic violence offenders must fill out after they surrender their firearms in accordance with the law. On the form, offenders have to record all firearms they own and are surrendering, by listing the Make and Model as well as the Serial number.

The bill moving through legislature would do away with the form. It passed in the House on April 4, and is waiting to be calendared in the Senate.

Domestic violence victims and advocates say if the bill passes, it would be a step backward, putting victims, the public and police officers in danger. Advocates say the form is the only documentation of accountability. They say if abusers have access to firearms they are five times more likely to kill victims.

"We know firearms really increase the risk that they are murdered by abuser so by removing a basic protection that really a small step forward for us to hold them accountable for us is really frightening," said Becky Bullard, the Senior Director of Programs at the Office of Family Safety.

Diane Lance has worked with domestic violence victims for more than two decades. She worries this bill would be a step backwards in working to prevent domestic violence homicides.

"We were deeply concerned when we heard about the bill and do not understand why Senator Massey and some members of state legislature want to remove the only assurance that we have that convicted offenders are removed of their firearms," said Diane Lance, the department head of the Office of Family Safety.

Victim advocate Vicki Jones says she's worried this Tennessee Bill will take away hope survivors have of coming forward.

"I don't think they would be willing to continue the process of pursuing justice if there wasn't any accountability with an abuser having access to a gun and come for them as a retaliatory factor or just to intimidate," said advocate Vicki Jones.

Of the 13 domestic violence homicides in Nashville last year, firearms were used in 10.