In New Jersey, homicides were up 4% in 2015. Tamara Wilson-Seidle was shot and killed by her husband in broad daylight while their seven-year old daughter looked on. On June 25, 2015, nine days after Tamara lost her life, both houses passed a bill to prevent domestic violence gun deaths with overwhelming majorities. Unfortunately for New Jerseyans, Governor Chris Christie has twice vetoed these bills. Join us in supporting broader firearm restrictions for domestic abusers.
A bill aimed at protecting families from the threat and potential of gun violence will come before the Assembly on Monday, November 21. In a conditional veto from Chris Christie in the spring he “[urged] the Legislature to join with [him] in a bipartisan manner to broaden this bill’s approach to reducing domestic violence while simultaneously empowering victims to protect themselves through lawful means.” The Governor’s proposal would give victims of domestic violence expedited access to their own firearms.
Why is this so important? A woman is 5 times more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner if there is a gun in the house. Of the female homicides reported in New Jersey in 2011, more than half of them were committed by intimate partners and a third involved the use of a firearm. Domestic violence offenses involving a gun increased 10 percent in 2013 when compared to 2012. And 216 women were killed in a domestic violence homicide between 2010 and 2013. There were 2,962 total arrests involving domestic violence restraining orders reported by police in 2011. Of these, 1,804 were arrests for violations of a restraining order only, while 1,158 were arrests for violations of a restraining order with an offense arrest. Children were involved or present during 31 percent of all domestic violence offenses.
Among other provisions, the bill (S2483/A4126) would:
- Require domestic abusers who have been convicted of a domestic violence offense to surrender their firearms and provide a receipt and affidavit to the prosecutor demonstrating that they have done so;
- Require a law enforcement officer to accompany an abuser who has become subject to a restraining order to the location of the abuser’s firearms and take possession of the firearms, or if the abuser is prohibited from going to the location by restraining order, require the officer to seize the firearms;
- Require the application for a restraining order to allow the victim to list firearms owned by the abuser;
- Require any identification card and permit issued to an abuser to be immediately revoked and require the court to establish a process for notifying the appropriate authorities of the revocation;
- Enhance penalties for domestic violence offenses.
Under current law, the above are provisions the Courts CAN take but are not required. The new legislation tightens that gap, closing a potential loophole.
If you or someone you care about is in danger, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
For a listing of local services, visit the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
Laurice Grae-Hauck is the Outreach Coordinator of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of NJ.