South Carolina’s dubious distinction as the worst state in the nation for deaths per capita due to criminal domestic violence calls for stricter laws against repeat offenders and stronger measures to protect victims, state Sen. Larry Martin says.
He has filed a bill to be introduced early in the 2015 legislative session that calls for harsher penalties against perpetrators who commit violent acts again and calls for revoking gun ownership rights for 10 years of violators convicted of first degree criminal domestic violence or criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature.
That gun restriction is patterned after a federal law that says those convicted of criminal domestic violence can’t own or purchase a weapon again, Martin said.
Violators who don’t get rid of their guns would be charged with a felony, under Martin’s bill.
“It’s already the federal law, but our guys can’t enforce it,” Martin said.
The bill also requires a felony charge for violators of two or more offenses and increases the sentence for multiple offenses to up to 10 years.
Under current law, the maximum for second-time offenders is one year and for third or subsequent offenses, up to five years.
It also adds under the heading of high and aggravated cases those in which a deadly weapon is used; impeding the normal breathing or blood circulation of a victim by applying pressure to the throat, nose or mouth; committing the offense in the presence of a minor; committing the offense against a pregnant woman; or committing the offense during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping or theft.
It also gives judges latitude to revoke gun rights of a person charged at the high and aggravated level while they’re out on bond.
Statistics for 2014 aren't in yet, but according to the state Attorney General’s Office, 46 people were murdered by a household member in South Carolina in 2013.
Of those 46 people, 38 were women, constituting 83 percent of the total, and eight were men,
Demographically, 65 percent of the victims were white, 33 percent were African American, and 2 percent were Asian. The average age of the victims was 41 years old, according to the AG.
Guns were used in 78 percent of the cases, according to the report.
Martin said South Carolina had the highest per capita death rate in the nation from domestic violence, with Louisiana coming in second. He said he patterned his bill on one recently passed in Louisiana.