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Domestic abuse – the danger grows when guns are present

New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws of any state in the nation, but recent data shows woman who become victims of domestic violence still face an elevated risk of being killed by a firearm.

A proposed bill would strengthen gun laws in NJ to protect domestic violence victims from gun violence. (JOHN GOMEZ, ThinkStock)

A Violence Policy Center study found 52 percent of females who were homicide victims were killed with a gun. The same study found of that group, 61 percent were killed by their husband or boyfriend during an argument.

In addition, statistics compiled by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence show that during 2011, 53.6  percent of female homicide victims in the Garden State were killed by males during an argument.

In response, New Jersey Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Turnersville) is sponsoring legislation that would strengthen gun laws in several ways:

  • Require domestic abusers to surrender all of their guns if a domestic violence restraining order is in effect, or if they’re convicted of a domestic violence crime;
  • Suspend the gun purchaser ID cards and permits of abusers;
  • Revoke such cards if an abuser is convicted of a domestic violence crime;
  • Require cross-checking of records to determine if an abuser owns a firearm.

“The idea of the legislation is to protect these women, or men, depending on the situation, cause there are men that are also victims, to make sure that they have an opportunity to get out of their situation,” Mosquera said. “I’m hopeful the measure will get a wide array of support from lawmakers.”

He said her commitment to help these victims was fueled by her childhood.

“The issue of domestic violence is something very personal to me, because my mother is a survivor,” she said,  “I’ve actually gone through the experience. As a child I saw my mother go through this, and because of the opportunity she was given to leave my father she survived the abuse and has thrived.”

Pat Colligan, the president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, believes the proposed legislation will help to protect the individual being abused, as well as the officers who respond to the scene.

He said when a domestic violence call is received, 911 operators are trained to immediately inquire about weapons.

“One of the very first questions a dispatcher or telecommunicator is going to ask is are there any weapons in the home. By the time you get there it could have escalated and you never know what to expect,” Colligan said.

He added getting weapons out of a house where a domestic call is received is never a bad idea.

“We can’t help the victim if we’re the victim of gunshots or violence when we enter the home,” he said.

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