New laws will protect families better

Domestic violence invades a home and destroys a family in America all too often. It is referred to as the silent crime because of the untold women and children who suffer in secret.

Each year, women are victims of more than 4.5 million violent crimes, 29 percent of which are perpetrated by intimate partners such as husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends and former boyfriends. It is time for Missouri to move into the 21st century to combat the epidemic of domestic violence in our society.

As a representative with an "A" rating from the NRA, I am an ardent supporter of the 2nd Amendment. At the same time, we must recognize the urgent need for a rational approach to the dangers presented by firearms in domestic violence situations.

A constituent of mine from St. Charles County told me her personal story of domestic violence. Her ex-husband was forced to leave their home by the police to help defuse a domestic violence dispute. But he was allowed to leave, she said, with his firearms in hand. Unlike a drug sting, at which law enforcement officers are required to remove every firearm from the scene, Missouri statutes do not require the removal of firearms from the scene of domestic violence disputes.

I believe we must be extremely careful not to trample the 2nd Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens' right to bear arms. Nevertheless, in the 21st century, we can use new ideas to solve old problems. We can find a way to honor gun owners' rights and, at the same time, punish those who use firearms to batter, intimidate or murder their loved ones.

The need for change in the world of domestic violence is urgent. Because of the current situation, more and more adults and children are suffering. We need legislation that ensures the best interests of those involved in a domestic dispute-- and of society as a whole -- by limiting access to guns.

We need to allow law enforcement officers to remove firearms from the scene of alleged acts of domestic violence. We also need safeguards built into the process. Law enforcement agencies must safely store any seized firearm for as long as any relevant domestic-violence court proceeding is pending. The gun owner may reclaim the weapon only after proceedings have concluded.

In order to protect those who might be hurt by domestic offenders, we also have to tighten regulations on those who can carry a gun. Sheriffs should have the legal authority to deny applications and revoke permits or registrations for concealed weapons if the individual is subject to an existing order of protection relating to domestic violence.

This also would apply to people who have been convicted of domestic assault or of violating an order of protection while using or possessing a firearm. The same restrictions should apply the shipment of firearms. And, finally, Missouri must come into compliance with the Federal Violence Against Women Act.

I feel strongly that these measures will do a great deal to protect victims of domestic violence and to prevent further violence.

Sherman Thompson Parker, a Republican who represents parts of St. Charles County in the Missouri House of Representatives, is a regular contributor to the Commentary page.

Sherman Parker

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