In theory, domestic abusers have been forbidden from owning firearms under federal law since 1996. Properly enforced, this simple safety measure has the potential to save thousands of innocent lives, without so much as inconveniencing those gun owners who have a history of basic human decency and level-headedness. Unfortunately, more than 20 years after its passage, the law remains fraught with loopholes and only haphazardly applied.
The restriction does not cover stalkers or abusive partners who have not lived with, married, or had children with their victims, for example, and even the most blatantly disqualifying crimes are often not reported to the background check databases used to determine weapon buyers’ eligibility.
Most deadly of all, however, is the failure of many states to enforce the law at all. In March, Georgia had the opportunity to end its legacy as a haven for gun-wielding abusers, through a bill that would have banned gun ownership for domestic abusers at the state level. In spite of being approved by the State Senate, the bill did not pass the Georgia General Assembly in March, leaving this deadly threat as unchecked as ever.
Shootings by Domestic Abusers Are Predictable
Domestic violence is almost never an isolated incident, and it’s an extremely accurate predictor of the danger someone poses to others in the future. One study by the Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV), surveying murders committed by intimate partner stalkers, found that 95% of perpetrators had non-fatally assaulted their victims in the past, 74% had previously violated Temporary Protective Orders, and 71% used guns to kill their victims.
In other words, there were plenty of opportunities to prevent these deaths, by stripping a documented abuser of the weapon that would ultimately make the murder so quick and easy to perform.
The presence of a gun in a domestic abuse situation raises the likelihood of homicide by 500%, and that’s only the risk to the existing victims. People with a history of domestic abuse — and the violently controlling personality type that accompanies it — also account for more than half of mass shooters, making disarming them even more essential to public safety.
Where the State Falls Short, Landlords Have a Responsibility to Step In
Even though Georgia’s state leadership has declined to take the necessary action to protect residents from armed domestic abusers, landlords still have a legal responsibility to protect tenants and guests from foreseeable dangers on their properties. Owners of apartment complexes and hotels in particular are in an ideal position to recognize cases of domestic violence before they result in loss of life, and are liable for failing to respond.
Although landlords do not have the authority to forbid gun ownership directly, they can help prevent violence by supporting victims, especially in their interactions with law enforcement, and by evicting tenants who threaten others and cause disturbances, without evicting the victims who live with them. They’re also required to allow victims of domestic violence to break leases without penalties in order to escape.
If a landlord you know has ignored or enabled a domestic abuser, and that abuser went on to shoot you or someone you love, contact The Stoddard Firm for a free consultation.