Kentucky’s lax laws
By Barry Goldstein
Context is critical in understanding domestic violence issues.
Abusers routinely seek to decontextualize their behavior in order to conceal their purpose and impact. Courts tend to look at each issue and each incident separately and in doing so fail to recognize the patterns and so deny or minimize true domestic violence complaints.
Mother Jones recently published a good article by Dana Liebelson about the dangerous practices in Kentucky regarding access to guns for abusers and their victims. The article demonstrates that Kentucky’s lax laws that permit adjudicated domestic abusers to keep their guns has contributed to Kentucky having the highest domestic violence murder rate in the country. The obvious response which has been successful in other states is to take guns away from these dangerous abusers. It is supported by research and risk assessments that having access to a gun is one of the most important factors in predicting lethality. Instead, Kentucky decided to respond by making it easier for victims to quickly obtain gun licenses, presumably to protect themselves. The reporter correctly points out that owning a gun makes it more likely the victim will be killed often with her own gun. This is a good example of developing policy based on political ideology rather than good research.
Better laws and practices regarding guns would certainly save lives, but to make a big difference, states need to look at context and develop programs that can dramatically reduce all domestic violence crimes. The Quincy Solution is based on successful practices in communities like Quincy, San Diego and Nashville. In Quincy, a county that averaged 5 to 6 domestic violence homicides a year enjoyed several years with no murders. The Quincy Solution includes strict enforcement of criminal laws, orders of protection and probation rules, practices that make it easier for victims to leave their abusers, a coordinated community response, use of current scientific research, new technologies like GPS and inclusion of the custody courts by passing the Safe Child Act. The Safe Child Act requires that courts making decisions about custody and visitation must make the health and safety of children the first priority. Many people are surprised that courts do not already use this obvious approach.
We know the practices that are part of the Quincy Solution will work because of the success in Quincy, Nashville and San Diego. The benefits include substantial savings in health care costs, crime expenses and an improved economy as victims and children can now reach their economic potential. In the United States, the Quincy Solution will save $500 billion annually. The financial savings are important because they will provide the incentive for policy makers to implement the Quincy Solution. Perhaps when this country adopts the Quincy Solution, Kentucky will only be tied for the most domestic violence homicides but that number will be zero.