DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ADVOCATES AND SERVICE PROVIDERS URGE SENATE TO MOVE QUICKLY TO ADOPT STRONGEST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAW POSSIBLE
Senate Adjourns Amid Discussions on Weakening Senate Bill 3, Life-Saving Domestic Violence Bill Up for Debate
The State Senate adjourned on Thursday without taking action on Senate Bill 3, a life-saving domestic violence bill that would protect South Carolina’s victims of abuse. The bill would require stronger penalties for those convicted of abuse, streamline orders of protection for victims of abuse, and prohibit convicted domestic abusers, and abusers under active orders of protection, from possessing firearms – a key step toward reducing South Carolina’s deadly rate of domestic violence homicides.
The Senate adjourned amid discussion on a series of amendments that – if adopted – could seriously weaken the bill and despite fresh evidence that South Carolina voters overwhelmingly support the firearm prohibition in the bill.
One possible amendment discussed on the floor would seek to exempt abusers who have been convicted of criminal domestic violence in the third degree from the prohibition on possessing firearms. This class of offenders includes individuals who have battered and bruised their victims – typically during an ongoing pattern of coercion and abuse.
While the proposed amendment would give judges the option to order a defendant not to possess guns, magistrates in South Carolina are appointed by Senators. This could open a way for their views on firearm prohibitions to become a “litmus” test for appointment. The adoption of this amendment could lead to a disparity of outcomes across the state and decrease safety for many victims of domestic violence.
Between 2007 and 2011, women in South Carolina were twice as likely to be shot and killed by their intimate partners as the average American woman. Research also shows the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed.
Federal law prohibits convicted domestic abusers from possessing firearms, but South Carolina’s weak domestic violence laws make it nearly impossible for state and local law enforcement to ensure domestic abusers who are legally prohibited from owning firearms do not possess them.
Efforts to strengthen the state’s domestic violence laws are widely supported by South Carolina voters. Three independent polls conducted between October 2014 and February 15, 2015 find that more than three-quarters of voters in South Carolina support policies that will keep guns out of domestic abusers’ hands. Almost two-thirds of those polled as recently as this month agree convicted abusers should turn in guns they already own.
“South Carolina’s domestic violence survivors have waited long enough for our elected leaders to address our state’s alarming record of domestic violence shootings. Now that we finally have a chance to take action to protect our state’s abuse victims, some senators are attempting to derail the progress we’ve made by attempting to undermine S.3’s vital goal, which is to save women’s lives,” said Sara Barber, SCCADVASA Executive Director. “It is imperative for the Senate to reject any amendments that would critically undermine the intentions of the bill’s sponsors and endanger the lives of domestic violence victims throughout our state.”
 Everytown analysis of data obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2008-2012, available online at http://bit.ly/1oWiuB3.
 Jacqueline C. Campbell, Daniel Webster, and Jane Koziol-McLain, “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no. 7 (June 2003): 1089-1097, http://1.usa.gov/1osjCet.