Thursday, August 11, 2005

State and Federal Legislation on Domestic Violence

As I mentioned last Friday, I have very limited Internet access this week so I haven't been able to answer the comments on a couple of postings that have been piling up. Hopefully next week I will.

In the meantime, here is something I wrote in late July, had stored in email and hadn't gotten around to posting.

Sometimes there seems to be a synergy between state
and federal legislation. Sometimes that is because
some issues just come up in both places a lot.
Sometimes it is planned (more on this in another
post). Sometimes it could be that I just see two
things that hit me for some reason, in the sea of
material that crosses by desk at a certain time.

For instance I noticed on Daily Sally recently, a
posting on federal legislation to change federal laws
to stop violence against women. Here is an excerpt.

So the Violence Against Women Act must be revamped,
strengthened, enlarged. Biden, Green and Lofgren
stepped up with new bills, along with 148 cosponsors
in the House and 44 in the Senate. But Congress being
Congress, look where those bills are now.

S. 1197: A bill to reauthorize the Violence Against
Women Act of 1994. (Introduced; Jul 18, 2005)
Committee on the Judiciary. Hearings held Jul 18,
2005. [Well. At least there were some hearings.]

H.R. 2876: To reauthorize the Violence Against Women
Act of 1994 (Introduced Jun 13, 2005) Referred to
House Ways and Means [Why?]

H.R. 3171: To reauthorize the Violence Against Women
Act of 1994 (Introduced Jun 29, 2005) Referred to
House Agriculture [Where??]

In my “to blog about” pile I have an article, “Law
would disarm domestic abusers,” from the June 26th
Intelligencer (p. B4), on HB1717. The bill has passed
the house and is currently in the appropriations
committee in the senate. The newspaper article says
the bill would “require PFA [protection from abuse]
defendants to hand over all their guns for the length
of the order. Failure to do so could net abusers up
to five years in jail, a $10,000 fine and a lifetime
ban on gun ownership.” The article lists the sponsor
as Katie True, R-41. I checked the description online
at the state legislature and didn’t think it quite
matched the one in the paper, but what do I know, and
the bill had umpteen sponsors, but it sounds like True
did a lot of the ground work, “consulted domestic
violence opponents and gun rights advocates before
drafting the legislation.”

True has asked for an amendmentl that would allow
defendants to sue if a PFA is filed against them under
false pretenses, but these things are really hard to
judge in many cases. Is it something filed in revenge
or is the woman in real danger? If the law passes
PFAs, currently limited to a maximum of 18 months,
could be extended to 3 years.

The idea of having someone who is stalking or
harassing another person turn in their guns sounds
like a great idea. I have some qualms, though. After
all, in PA how hard is it to get another gun? The
bill, if passed, will probably slow down the amateurs
or the frivolous, but there is little that will slow
or stop the determined.

Like many women, I have known people who have lost
loved ones to domestic violence, and also lost people
I have known. A woman I used to work with had a
daughter that was murdered by her estranged husband,
shot to death in front of their preschool children.
(The oldest told police “Daddy hurt Mommy. Mommy
bleed.”) A relative I had not seen in more than 30
years was murdered a few years ago. Her estranged
husband threw a homemade incendiary device into their
home (without checking to see if their teenage
daughter was home – fortunately she was not). A
friend who lived in that area sent me a news tape that
showed the responding police car’s tape of the woman
running from her house, clothes melted to her body,
and dropping onto the grass, pulling up her legs and
raising her arms into the air, as the feel of grass on
her burns would have been excruciatingly painful. She
died about a month later, never leaving the burn unit
of the hospital. The news tape also showed her
husband smirking at the cameras as he was taken into
custody. He is currently serving a life sentence. If
I had a choice between those two deaths, I would
definitely take the gun.

That is neither here nor there regarding the proposed
legislation, but it was what came to mind, and
probably why I saved the article.

Overall, taking the guns from those who have a PFA
against them may not save a lot of lives, but if it
saves a few, that is a good thing.

For more information, see the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence

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