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Some domestic abusers may get access to firearms

On Feb. 29, two men went to the Supreme Court arguing that despite being convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, they should be allowed to purchase and own guns. If the men are successful, then victims of domestic abuse in Virginia and throughout the United States may be in greater danger. Abusers with guns are five times more likely to kill their victims, according to research from the National Institutes of Health.

A federal law passed in 1996 prohibits people who have a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction on their record from owning weapons. The men's argument focuses on whether an assault is, in legal terms, "reckless" as opposed to intentional. They say that if the assault was committed recklessly, they should still be allowed access to gun. Reckless in this sense does not mean that the person did not know what they were doing, and in many states, the same law deals with assaults whether they are reckless or intentional.

It is possible that the Supreme Court will decide that the statutory language is too vague. Specificity is necessary in statutes that deal with criminal law. However, studies show that deaths from domestic abuse drop when abusers are not permitted to have possession of firearms. As a result, advocates for victims of domestic violence are concerned about the effect a change in the law may have.

There are options for some protection for people facing domestic violence even if the law is overturned. A protective order can require a perpetrator to avoid contact with a victim. People who think they may require a protective order may want to have the assistance of counsel in attempting to obtain one. People who are dealing with threatening harassment should keep evidence such as emails, voice mails and other material as well as documenting any incidents that occur.

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