Domestic violence affects all of us. Anyone of any race, age, religion, or class can be a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence. It can be physical violence, threats or intimidation, financial deprivation, stalking, and more. It looks different across relationships and in the most severe cases, it can escalate to fatal harm.
Last year was the first time where rural areas experienced a greater percentage of domestic violence homicides than urban areas in Wisconsin. Tragically, one thing that has not changed is that firearms remain the most common weapon used to kill an intimate partner. In 2018, 65% of domestic violence homicides were committed with a gun.
That’s why I am proud to be co-authoring bipartisan legislation with Senator Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), Senate Bill 517, aimed at disarming convicted domestic abusers. Though current law prohibits a felon from possessing a firearm that does not extend to those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. This bill would correct that oversight and allow our current background check system to do what it is intended to do and support law enforcement in their efforts to keep survivors safe.
Law-abiding gun owners- like my husband and myself and many of you- have a right to gun ownership because we do so responsibly and safely. In fact, 75% of Wisconsin gun owners support background checks to ensure that we can keep guns in our safe hands.
Yet domestic abusers, even those convicted of a felony, can still access weapons through the unlicensed sale loophole in Wisconsin’s background check system. Of the domestic violence shooting deaths in 2018, at least seven of those gunmen were legally prohibited from possessing firearms but were still able to access them through loopholes. This puts survivors and our law enforcement at risk.
In 2017, more officers were shot responding to domestic violence than any other type of firearm-related fatality, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The Police Executive Research Forum argues that one of the best ways to prevent those law enforcement fatalities is to disqualify domestic abusers with a misdemeanor conviction from purchasing weapons.
We need to ensure that domestic abusers convicted of a misdemeanor are prohibited from purchasing guns from licensed sellers by passing our legislation. We also need to work on closing loopholes that are endangering our law enforcement officers who are already putting their lives on the line every day. I’m proud to work with my colleagues across the aisle on legislation that will protect our right to gun ownership and keep domestic violence survivors safe.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If it’s not safe for you to call, or if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, visit thehotline.org for immediate chat assistance and other resources. Chat is available every day from 24/7/365.
State Senator Patty Schachtner proudly represents Wisconsin’s tenth senate district with 178,250 constituents. The district covers parts of Burnett, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties.