Phillips-sponsored law barring domestic abusers from owning guns passes state legislature

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State Sen. Elaine Phillips said in a statement she supports similar gun control measures to ones she once voted against. (Photo courtesy of the office of Elaine Phillips)
State Sen. Elaine Phillips said in a statement she supports similar gun control measures to ones she once voted against. (Photo courtesy of the office of Elaine Phillips)

Legislation mandating the removal of firearms in all domestic violence cases sponsored in the state Senate by Elaine Phillips passed both houses of New York’s legislature on Saturday, following a vote against gun control measures and later expressing support for them early last month.

While current state law had prohibited individuals with serious offenses or felonies from owning certain firearms, domestic violence-related misdemeanor offenses such as strangulation, assault and battery were omitted from state law.

Current law also did not mandate the removal of rifles and shotguns in order of protection cases, firearm license suspensions or mental health disqualifications.

“This common-sense legislation closes the gap in federal law, protects women from their abusers and will save countless lives,” Phillips, a Republican from Flower Hill, said in a statement. “By keeping firearms out of the hands of those who are convicted of domestic violence, we are protecting victims who are known to be at risk.”

The legislation passed 85-32 in the State Assembly and 41-19 in the State Senate.

Firearms were used in 25 domestic homicides in New York in 2016 alone, with almost one-quarter of all victims in state homicides having a domestic relationship with the perpetrator, according to the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

FBI and state crime data suggests that one woman in the United States is fatally shot by a current or former intimate partner every 16 hours. Having a gun also magnifies the risk of homicide in a domestic violence situation by 500 percent, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm,” said Cindy Scott, the executive director of Safe Center LI. “Firearms have no place in the hands of domestic abusers and we thank Senator Phillips for listening to our concerns and getting this important legislation passed to protect women.”

The legislation was one part of a number of measures Phillips suggested when she expressed interest in gun control measures early last month to try curtailing mass shootings.

These measures included stronger background checks, “a real and workable mechanism” to prevent certain people from accessing firearms, and a ban on bump stocks and military-style assault weapons, and classifying mass shootings as domestic terrorism so law enforcement officials could gain access to more tools.

Phillips’ five steps are similar to the gun control proposals she chose not to initially support when, according to The New York Times, Democrats tried and failed to force the Republican majority to vote on gun control measures with a hostile amendment – attaching the proposals to an existing bill.

The measures called for longer background checks, the formation of an institution to study gun violence, giving courts the ability to prevent potentially violent people from buying guns and a ban on possession of bump stocks, according to The Times.

So far, of those measures, only preventing potentially violent people from buying guns has made it through the Senate.

The state Senate, however, also passed a set of school safety laws that would incentivize the hiring of school resource officers with state funding and peace officer status, provide aid for school security technology, and boost access to school-based mental health services.

The closure of the domestic abuser loophole was also one Gov. Andrew Cuomo advocated for as part of his 2018 Women’s Agenda.

“New York is once against leading the way to prevent gun violence, and with this common-sense reform, break the inextricable link between gun violence and domestic violence,” Cuomo said in a statement.

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