I'm a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman, and I believe in the right of citizens to own firearms — responsibly. What I don't believe are the National Rifle Association's (NRA) distortions on behalf of letting violent abusers possess guns.
Right now the NRA is going, well, ballistic trying to kill House Bill 223 by state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans. HB 223 would add abusive "dating partners" to the list of persons covered by Louisiana's domestic abuse battery law.
Moreno's bill arises from the indisputable fact that thousands of people are abused by lovers and ex-lovers every year in Louisiana, and too often the abused become victims of gun violence.
These statistics don't lie: In Louisiana, more than 70 percent of domestic homicides involve a dating partner, and more than 60 percent of survivors served by the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence are dating partners.
State and federal law already provide that live-in abusers convicted of domestic abuse battery lose their gun rights. Unfortunately, just as many if not more people are abused (and killed) in dating relationships, according to law enforcement. HB 223 would simply add "dating partners" — a term already very well defined in Louisiana law — to our domestic abuse battery law.
Thus, if HB 223 were to become law, a convicted domestic abuser would lose his or her Second Amendment rights regardless of whether the abuser lives with the victim. Considering how often domestic battery leads to gun violence in a marital relationship, why shouldn't dating relationships receive the same legal protection?
Sheriffs and prosecutors get it. That's why many of them support Moreno's bill.
"The existing provision that requires cohabitation to allow the law to protect victims of domestic violence is arbitrary," says Robert White, an assistant district attorney in Plaquemines Parish. "After having prosecuted hundreds of domestic violence cases, from minor incidents to homicides, and trying to get justice for hundreds of victims, I still can't explain to those victims why the crimes against them are less important because they live in separate residences."
East Baton Rouge Rouge Parish domestic abuse prosecutor Melanie Fields says the new law will give prosecutors "more options to address criminal behavior that sometimes arises in a romantic relationship."
That's not how the NRA sees it. In a letter to state lawmakers, one NRA leader hysterically casts HB 223 as an effort "to expand the gun control agenda and create an additional class of prohibited persons on the backs of domestic abuse victims."
That last phrase really takes the cake. Domestic abuse survivors already suffer too much at the hands of people who pretend to care about them; they don't need the NRA's fake pity. They need the law's genuine protection.
Just last year, in fact, the NRA happily endorsed a bill to allow abused dating partners to get temporary concealed handgun permits. Now, the same NRA claims that protecting dating partners is a bridge too far if it disarms abusers.
Moreno's bill comes up for a vote in the House on Monday, May 8. Hopefully the House won't let the NRA's bad faith kill a good bill.