Guest Opinions

Keeping guns out of abusers’ hands makes Idaho families safer

When is a background check mandatory for gun owners?

The Brady Act made background checks a requirement for guns purchased through licensed dealers. Here’s a brief look at how the current system works.
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The Brady Act made background checks a requirement for guns purchased through licensed dealers. Here’s a brief look at how the current system works.

In 2015, Laura and Judy Diaz’s father shot and killed their mother at their home in Wilder. It’s a horrific story made even worse by a simple fact: He shouldn’t have had the gun in the first place.

Years earlier, he was arrested for hitting their mother. After 90 days in jail, the judge returned his guns to him, even though federal law prohibited him from having them. This wasn’t the judge’s fault – it was a fault in Idaho law. Thanks to a loophole, our laws did not require the judge to keep the guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. He had no choice but to give them back to the man who abused his wife and would eventually kill her. He remains at large.

Domestic violence is one of the most serious public safety risks in our nation. Every month, 50 women are shot and killed in the United States by a current or former spouse. Nearly 1 million American women alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. Abusers use guns to threaten millions of women even if they never pull the trigger. It’s time Idaho makes a change so we don’t add to the statistics.

That’s why we joined forces to introduce H585, which is now heading to the House floor. The legislation is geared toward keeping guns out of the hands of those convicted of abusing women and children.

For law enforcement officers, responding to domestic abuse calls is one of the most dangerous aspects of the job. Seeing families torn apart by abuse is heartbreaking, but if we can pass legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of abusers, we know it can save lives.

The bill applies to people who are already prohibited by federal law from having guns. It empowers Idaho law enforcement to protect victims from violent abusers. This is good, life-saving policy that has bipartisan support across the country. Twenty-eight states – including Alabama, Texas and Indiana – and the District of Columbia have laws on the books prohibiting people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from buying or possessing guns. Last year in Utah, legislators passed a similar bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson, that passed the House unanimously.

Polls show solid support for stricter laws, especially after mass shootings. But there are also deep disagreement, staunch opposition and growing disenchantment with gun control.

Policies like this affect real Idahoans’ lives. We know the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. In 2016, the Idaho State Police reported 6,084 incidents of violence between spouses, ex-spouses and those in dating relationships. Each day in Idaho, more than 850 domestic violence victims and their children seek safety and services from community-based domestic violence programs.

We know Idahoans respect the Second Amendment. They expect their leaders to respect it, too. Idaho must take action to give law enforcement the tools they need to protect our communities, prevent convicted abusers from having access to guns, and stand up for victims (women, children, and men) in our state. We urge our Idaho legislators to pass this common-sense measure to protect all of our citizens and help save lives.

Kieran Donahue is the Canyon County sheriff and Melissa Wintrow is a Democratic legislator representing Boise.

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