Domestic violence cases on the rise in Ohio, experts believe state’s gun laws to blame

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 10:58 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 Investigates uncovered a troubling trend in Ohio, more people are dying from domestic violence.

Between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, at least 131 people died in domestic violence incidents in Ohio.

There were 85 victims and 46 were perpetrators and in most of those fatalities, 86%, guns were used.

“We’ve lost adult victims,” said Julia Webber, a domestic violence policy expert. “We’ve lost children, and also people who have committed domestic violence who have then died by suicide.”

The biggest problem in Ohio is that our gun laws simply are not strong enough. Domestic violence policy expert Julia Webber serves as the implementation director of the Gifford’s Law Center, a national organization striving to make America safer by working to end gun violence.

“So, unfortunately, and tragically, too many people who have lost their lives as a result of domestic violence and how often that’s been connected to use of firearms,” said Webber.

While federal laws are in place, the Gifford’s Law Center says Ohio doesn’t have any laws stopping people who are convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from buying firearms or ammunition and the same goes for those who have domestic violence protective orders against them.

The center said there are also no state laws requiring the removal or surrender of firearms from a suspect when a protection order is issued in domestic violence cases.

“We want to ensure that we actually allow for relinquishment, and surrender or seizure, if necessary, to ensure that those firearms are separated from someone who’s about to be violent,” Webber said.

It’s something that’s affecting real families across our state. Last week a 24-year-old mother of four was shot and killed in the parking lot of the McDonalds where she worked in Sheffield Village. Detectives believe her ex-boyfriend pulled the trigger.

“Domestic violence is real, you know, a lot of people they don’t like to talk about it, but it’s real,” said Jessica Mojica, the victim’s mother. “We’re living it you know.”

Each year, the Gifford’s Law Center publishes a gun law scorecard, grading each state by the strength of its gun laws and the number of gun deaths that occurred there. In its most recent annual report, the center gave Ohio a “D” grade, with the state ranking 22 of 50 states for gun deaths. As for gun law strength, Ohio ranks 25th.

“There are some laws on the books that could be used more effectively in Ohio, including some ways that judges can determine that firearms should not be owned, possessed, or purchased by a person who has been found to have perpetrated domestic violence or whose cases pending,” Webber said.

There are often warning signs before someone is killed because of domestic violence.

In a recent review of 90 fatal incidents, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network found -- in several of the cases -- a “violent domestic violence episode immediately or recently preceded” the murders. The organization says those prior DV incidents offered an opportunity for a, “stronger and more timely criminal justice response.” Webber believes Ohio could be doing more to protect domestic violence victims and potentially save their lives.

“Certainly, in the end, the essence of firearm the harm that’s done is ultimately the responsibility of the person who has committed that act,” explained Webber. “But we as a community, I think can always strive to do a better job and having good policies in place. policies that are understandable that are accessible, where the system actors are using those tools. I think that’s really critical and there’s certainly some room for improvement.”

Some state lawmakers are working to improve domestic violence protections with Aisha’s Law.

The legislation was named after Shaker Heights school teacher, Aisha Fraser, who was killed by her ex-husband in 2018.

The bill cleared the Ohio house back in October.

It’s now sitting in the Senate, waiting for passage.

If you know someone who may be a victim of domestic violence, call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

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