Editorial | South Carolina domestic abuse rate finally getting noticed

This editorial appeared in The Island Packet in Hilton Head Island:

For too long, South Carolina has held the dubious title of one of the deadliest states for women.

Its murder rate for women killed by men is nearly double the national average, according to rankings by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center. Only Alaska has a higher rate.

S.C. lawmakers are finally taking notice – and taking action. Late last month, the state Senate gave key approval to a criminal domestic violence bill that bans gun possession for 10 years by those convicted of first-degree or second-degree criminal domestic violence.

Judges would determine whether to ban guns for five years for those convicted of third-degree, the lowest level of the offense.

Anyone prohibited from possessing a firearm under the bill would face up to five years in prison if caught with a gun.

It was encouraging to see an overwhelming majority of senators get on board with this important bill, passing it in a 38-3 vote. Three Upstate senators voted against it, citing their staunch support of the Second Amendment.

Now it’s time for the House of Representatives to do its part and either pass the Senate bill or craft a similar one. But we fear that House members may attempt to water down or even remove the gun-ban provision.

South Carolina is a gun-loving state, and lawmakers have historically shot down attempts to limit gun rights. In fact, they’ve expanded them. Last year, a bill passed allowing those with concealed weapon permits to take their weapons into restaurants and bars.

We urge House members not to buckle on this one. There should be universal agreement that anyone found guilty of first or second degree criminal domestic violence is unfit to own a deadly weapon. Banning guns for these potentially dangerous people who have a history of abusing others is common sense, not an affront to the Second Amendment.

And such a ban could save lives. Each year, more than 36,000 people report a domestic violence incident to law enforcement agencies in South Carolina, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Lawmakers owe it to their constituents to guarantee caught abusers don’t get a second chance to injure – this time with a gun.