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Domestic violence survivors, advocates concerned with efforts to ban red flag laws in Missouri

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Posted at 7:10 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-19 22:06:03-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Domestic violence survivors and advocates are speaking up after a new anti-red flag law bill was proposed in the Missouri Senate.

Missouri Sen. Denny Hoskins introduced SB998 on March 6, which establishes the "Anti-Red Flag Gun Seizure Act."

The bill languages says “any federal order of protection or other judicial order issued by a court to confiscate any firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition from any law-abiding citizen shall be considered an infringement on the people's right to keep and bear arms.”

The bill goes on to read that “no public agency, political subdivision, or law enforcement agency shall receive any federal funding for the purpose of enforcing any federal acts or judicial orders confiscating any firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition.”

As of March 13, the bill was voted "Do Pass S Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee."

Hoskins’ bill is not the first of its kind. He gave his thoughts on why he thinks Missouri needs the measure in a video he posted to social media.

In the video, he explains the background behind the bill’s intention.

“What Senate Bill 998 would do is it would just say, 'Hey, we don't have red flag laws in the State of Missouri,'" he said. “We want to protect our Second Amendment Right.’”

Missouri currently has no red flag laws, despite previous requests to consider them from gun violence victims, legislators and domestic violence advocates like Annie Struby.

“Things that happen in Jeff City directly affect the clients we’re working with," Struby said.

Struby works at the Rose Brooks Center, one of the multiple domestic violence shelters and resource centers in town.

She works on the legislative and policy side of things and spoke about the overlap of gun violence and domestic violence at the Jackson County Health and Environment Committee meeting on Feb. 19.

“The one small protection that the victims that we work with had under the law, the Federal Law, was removed when the Second Amendment Preservation Act was enacted,” she said in the meeting.

Struby says while red flag laws can be helpful, they’re not the end-all-be-all.

“We actually would be happy, at least initially with some more narrow protections that just go to domestic violence victims,” Struby said.

The House and Senate-proposed bills she’s advocating for more narrowly speak to the domestic and gun violence overlap, something not always highlighted in data.

KCPD reports that of 182 homicides in Kansas City in 2023, 22 of them were domestic violence related.

Of that number, KCPD shared that 18 of them involved a firearm of some kind, three involved a knife and one involved strangulation.

On a broader scale, data from the Missouri State Highway Patrol gathered by the KSHB 41's I-Team Sarah Plake gathered when reporting on missing and murdered Black women in Missouri shows that females are more likely to be killed by a current or former partner.

Of those deaths, majority were from a firearm.

Even with numbers like these, Struby says it’s difficult to measure the threat of violence.

“They may not have any direct physical injuries from it, but that's such a powerful tool people can use to intimidate their partner,” Struby said.

Tina Johnson knows this from firsthand experience.

She was married to her abuser for 10 years with no firearms in the home. She thought she was in the clear once they separated.

“I had no idea he had bought a gun,” Johnson said. “He had called me several times and threatened suicide, so what I ended up doing was calling the police.”

Her abuser shot and killed himself that day 23 years ago. It’s what happened after that still lives with her.

“The 9-millimeter that he purchased had five bullets in it, and when the police found it, there were four left, and those four were for me and our three children,” Johnson said. “His purchasing of a gun wasn’t to be threatening or intimidating to me, his intention was to eliminate and end our family’s lives.”

Johnson said she is not anti-second amendment. In fact, her current husband is a hunter and keeps his gun locked up with no loaded bullets.

Her experience taught her it’s about earning that right.

“If there is domestic violence involved, if there is a felony involved, anything like that, you give up that right to own or bear any kind of firearms,” Johnson said.

Johnson was joined by her colleague, Meg Nelson.

Nelson is also a survivor working at Hope House who, despite not having an altercation with firearms, knows the power of threats.

“I was also in a position of, ‘I can’t do anything about it because what if?’” she said.

Nelson agrees that she’s not against people’s right to bear arms.

However, she is behind any kind of change that brings survivors’ stories to the forefront and keeps weapons out of the hands of abusers.

“If we’re able to make change now or in the near future, how differently will those lives look, how differently will Kansas City look, how differently will the world look if we’re able to make these changes now?” she said.