Keeping guns away from convicted domestic abusers

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Should convicted domestic violence abusers be banned from purchasing and owning guns?

Although there is already a federal law on the books, one congresswoman is pushing for even stricter laws, saying it will help protect the lives of domestic abuse victims.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 33,000 gun deaths in 2013 and 11,000 of those were murders.

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell believes those numbers show the current law doesn't go far enough.   She says her own father was prone to violent outbursts.

"If someone is an abuser or someone has a tendency toward violent behavior, yeah they are going to find other tools they can use," she said.  "But when you are in a setting with someone like my father, where everything would be perfectly normal one minute and then something snaps and the gun is there, that's when you have a sense of tragedy."

Dingell is introducing legislation to restrict convicted stalkers from buying guns.

"Right now, people who have been convicted of stalking, even if it's plead down from a felony charge, can get access to a gun," she said.  "They can legally get a gun.  So what this is... what our bill would say: If you have been convicted of criminal stalking that you can't pass the background check."

Steve Dulan, a professor of firearms at Cooley Law School who is also on the board of the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, doesn't like the federal law that bans convicted abusers from being able to buy guns.

"So if there was a charge of any kind of minor battery like pushing and shoving, that kind of thing, with an extended family member... for example, two brothers pushing each other at a family reunion. That can be considered domestic violence," Dulan said.

Dulan says a one size fits all law just doesn't work, saying "there is a false sense of security that resolves when you say 'Oh well, we have disarmed this person who is a violent domestic abuser.'"

Both Dingell and Dulan admit they are conflicted over the best solution to keep people safe while protecting Second Amendment rights to own firearms.

"I think about this everyday. What kinds of regulation would have kept my father from having a gun?  How do you respect peoples’ privacy but keep us safe?" Dingell said.

"A lot of folks on both sides of the issue agree that there are simply people who can't be trusted with freedom, and I'm not sure where you draw the line," Dulan said.

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