State Attorney announces initiative to remove guns from domestic abusers

The State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit announced a new initiative aimed at removing firearms from domestic abusers.

State Attorney Andrew Warren, The Spring President Mindy Murphy and the Crisis Center President Clara Reynolds spoke at a Wednesday morning news conference.

“By taking and keeping guns away from abusers, we will reduce the domestic violence,” Warren said. “We will help victims overcome the overwhelming, paralyzing fear that comes from having an armed, abusive partner.

MORE: Domestic violence prompts leave for Cape assistant city manager

“We will hopefully save lives.”

Warren said the new initiative has two goals.

  1. To remove guns from domestic abusers.
  2. Make sure domestic abusers can’t acquire new guns.

“State and federal law prohibit the possession of a firearm by anyone convicted of domestic violence,” Warren said. “Florida law also prohibits a person who is subject to a domestic violence-related injunction from possessing a gun.

“Unfortunately, inconsistent enforcement of these laws has allowed abusers access to firearms.”

Murphy said they’d need the community’s help for the new initiative to succeed.

“We’re only one half of the equation,” Murphy said. “We’re the half of the equation that provides direct assistance to victims and survivors.”

On Wednesday, Warren also said he was working with several Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies on the initiative.

Warren cited intimidation, injury and death as possible consequences of domestic abusers having access to firearms.

“I’m committed to aggressively enforcing laws that are already on the books,” Warren said.

Warren said area law enforcement will seek to relinquish guns from any defendant charged with domestic violence who is legally prohibited to owning a gun. Tampa Bay area law enforcement will also seek to relinquish guns from defendants without criminal histories, but who faces domestic violence charges based on probable cause, Warren said.

Warren also cited a connection between domestic violence and mass shootings as a reason for the new initiative. He brought up the example of the mass shooting in Sutherland, Texas.

MORE: Poker run benefits Lee County domestic violence nonprofit

“The majority of mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence,” Warren said.

Warren also mentioned the September 2011 shooting death of an Auburndale police officer. The defendant Michael Lester – who had a lengthy criminal history, including domestic abuse – pleaded no contest to the attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.

“He should have never had a gun,” Warren said.

Author: Mark Bergin, WTSP