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Flake bill aims to increase reporting of military domestic violence convictions

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Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are introducing new bi-partisan legislation in the wake of the Texas church massacre.

Dubbed the ‘Domestic Violence Loophole Closure Act’, the bill aims to make sure those convicted of domestic violence offenses are banned from acquiring or keeping a firearm.

The idea of keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers isn’t new. For twenty years, federal law has banned anyone with such a conviction- misdemeanor or felony- from being able to get a new gun or keep any guns already in their possession.  

But Senators Flake and Heinrich claim the military doesn’t always report domestic violence convictions in military court to the national background database, allowing some offenders to slip through the cracks.

Devin Kelley killed 26 people and injured dozens more in a rural Texas church earlier this month. In 2012, Kelley was given a court martial conviction for assaulting his wife and her baby son.

This week, Air Force officials admitted they never reported the domestic violence offense to the federal database.

“We're looking at something that specifically, had it been followed, this person would not have been able to obtain a firearm,” said Senator Flake.

The Texas tragedy is shining new light on the issue of domestic violence. Every year in Southern Arizona, 6,000 domestic violence victims will seek help at the Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse.

“That’s really just the tip of the iceberg because every year, about 15,000 domestic violence calls will come into local law enforcement,” said Emerge CEO, Ed Mercurio-Sakwa. “That’s 15,000 people who felt they needed armed intervention in their personal relationship.”

Mercurio-Sakwa said legislation can help in some ways, but it will take a cultural change on a widespread level to really combat the issue.

“Broadly, of course, anything that helps to create safety is a good thing,” he said. “And even better would be to try to prevent it on the front end so they never committed domestic violence in the first place .”

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