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Should Officers Have the Power To Remove Guns From Violent Offenders?

February 9, 2009

Jefferson City, MO - Last year, two-thirds of Missouri domestic violence murders were committed with guns, according to a recent study, and advocates against domestic violence say it's time to get guns out of the hands of offenders. At present, a police officer cannot legally confiscate a weapon at the scene of a domestic violence crime; Lisa Weingarth, development director with Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, says that needs to change. She's supporting a bill pending before the Missouri Senate to restrict gun possession and ownership by domestic violence offenders.

"People who beat their wives or girlfriends have proven that they're not fit to have the responsibility of owning a gun, so as a community, as a state, we need to make sure that they're not allowed to have guns."

Opponents of the bill say it infringes on Second Amendment rights. A federal law has been in place since 1996 that restricts gun possession and ownership by domestic violence offenders, but currently there is no Missouri state law that parallels that federal law.

Weingarth says studies show weapons are the highest risk factors for homicides by intimate partners. She says that when perpetrators have guns they are 12 times more likely to kill their victims than those not so armed.

"There's no reason for somebody who beats his wife or girlfriend to own a gun, and when you combine somebody who has that violent tendency with a gun, the end result is just more death."

About 26 states have passed state laws that mirror the federal domestic violence gun law prohibiting offenders from possessing guns.

Weingarth says studies show that states with laws prohibiting individuals subject to protective orders from possessing firearms have lower rates of domestic violence homicides.

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Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MO