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New York acts to protect domestic abuse victims from gun violence

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In late March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that closes a loophole in state law in order to ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms, not just handguns. (Diana Robinson)

On the evening of March 29, 2016, in the town of Orchard Park, New York, just south of Buffalo, 51-year-old Ruby Stiglmeier lost her life. Her boyfriend, 53-year-old David Lewczyk, fatally shot her and then himself. 

“She was just a genuine person,” said a co-worker of Stiglmeier in an interview with The Buffalo News. Police had visited the couple’s home before in response to violent behavior from Lewczyk; in retrospect, the call may have foreshadowed Stiglmeier’s murder.

On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to better protect victims of domestic assault from gun violence—thus making it a little harder for men like Lewczyk to kill. The legislation ensures that people convicted of misdemeanor offenses involving domestic abuse are prohibited from owning guns, and similarly restricts abusers from having access to long guns, including rifles and shotguns.

“In a time when gun violence continues to relentlessly torment communities across the country while our federal government refuses to act, New York must lead the charge to end this epidemic once and for all,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “With this legislation, we can sever the undeniable connection between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence, and continue to build upon the strongest gun laws in the nation.”   

New York law already prohibits the possession of firearms for people convicted of felonies or “serious” offenses. Senate Bill S8121 amended existing law by ensuring that certain misdemeanors qualify as “serious” offenses when committed against family members. Under the legislation, domestic abusers will be forced to give up all their firearms—not just handguns—while also prohibiting people subject to felony arrest warrants from obtaining a firearm license. Cuomo announced the passage of the bill by the New York State Senate and Assembly on March 31. 

The U.S. is a significant outlier when it comes to gun violence committed against women. In fact, American women are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries. Guns also make domestic violence more deadly. The presence of a gun in a domestic altercation is said to increase the likelihood that the victim will be killed by fivefold. In 2016, firearms were used in 35 domestic homicides in New York, according to data released by Cuomo’s office.

People with a history of domestic violence are also more likely to commit mass shootings. Nine out of 10 of the deadliest mass shootings involve perpetrators with a history of threatening, committing, or verbalizing domestic violence, according to a November 2017 investigation by Business Insider

More articles by Category: Gender-based violence, Politics, Violence against women
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