BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A package of bills that would toughen laws against domestic violence received support Wednesday from the Louisiana House criminal justice committee.
One proposal by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans would allow harsher punishments for people convicted of certain crimes of domestic abuse, reducing their eligibility for parole and probation.
Another bill would limit firearm possession for people convicted in domestic violence cases, barring some offenders from having guns for up to a decade after serving their sentences. Domestic violence offenders who have a protective order against them would not be allowed to own a firearm during the period of the order.
Moreno said the measures will hold domestic violence offenders accountable and protect the victims. She said the murder rate for women in Louisiana is twice the national average.
"We clearly have a problem," Moreno said.
Eighty percent of the women murdered in Louisiana are killed by a husband, partner or ex-partner, and 74 percent of the state's domestic violence homicides are gun-related, according to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The committee backed the bills without objection, but only after reworking them. They move next to the full House for consideration.
Among the changes, lawmakers removed a requirement that police officers seize firearms at the scene of a domestic violence crime.
Moreno said she eliminated the seizure requirement because it could keep the bill from passing. She said she had faced opposition from the National Rifle Association, law enforcement groups and some members of the House when the seizure language was included.
She said she didn't want to lose the firearms possession limits bill entirely because of the dispute.
"I'm trying to get the most that I can for domestic violence victims," she said.
Several committee members expressed disappointment in the amendment, including Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport.
"When it comes to that gun, in Louisiana, gun is number one, safety is number two," Norton said, criticizing the change.
Moreno said lawmakers will revisit the issue of whether to require the seizure of firearms in incidents of domestic violence. Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, has a bill that would require it. It will be considered at a later date by the criminal justice committee.