Social reform in the battered women’s movement has always involved aggressive attempts to save women’s lives through legislation and community education. Gone are the days when the courts tolerated domestic violence so long as the husband used a ” ‘rod not thicker than his thumb.’ ” Every state now allows arrests without a warrant for domestic violence abusers and every state now enables victims to receive a protective order. With the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and subsequent amendments to the Gun Control Act of 1968, Congress recognized that domestic violence is an epidemic worthy of national attention.
With two amendments to the Gun Control Act, Congress displayed innovation by making it a federal crime for an abuser to possess a firearm. Both amendments are examples of how social reform through the legal system can effectuate change. In practice, however, there are enforcement issues that make such progressive gun laws ineffective to accomplish the dual goals of saving women’s lives and holding batterers accountable.
This note advocates the passage of a state domestic violence gun law in Kentucky to make it a crime to possess a firearm if under a protective order or if convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor. Part I gives background on the problem of domestic violence and the strong correlation between domestic violence fatalities and guns. Part II discusses current federal gun laws, current state regulation on guns for domestic violence abusers, and other states’ attempts to regulate in this arena. Part III focuses on the enforcement issues surrounding federal gun laws. Part IV proposes adoption of Kentucky Senate Bill 172 that will fill the gap in Kentucky’s domestic violence gun laws by solving enforcement issues inherent in federal gun laws.