SPECIAL REPORT: The push to keep guns out of the hands of alleged domestic violence abusers

COLUMBIA/RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF)- It’s a nationwide problem that’s hitting close to home- domestic violence.

There are some startling statistics when it comes to cases in Georgia, according to the Fatality Review Board.

In 2016, in Georgia, there were more than 120 domestic violence cases that ended in a murder-suicide or homicide.

Of those, more than 80 percent involved a firearm.

“If we don’t start taking firearms away, I think we’re going to constantly see an increase in homicides and murder-suicides when it comes to domestic violence,” said Executive Director of SafeHomes Domestic Violence Center Aimee Hall.

Hall sees the aftermath of domestic violence every day.

Hall says in Columbia County alone last year, there were eight reported killed by guns in a domestic violence case.

Those include the “The Appling Five” when Wayne Hawes went on a shooting spree after a domestic dispute with his estranged wife.

Another victim, last year in Thomson, was 23-year old Tyisha Davis.

Last December, the GBI says her boyfriend, Lenny Moss, came to her house and  shot and killed her.

Davis was a client at SafeHomes and was in the process of leaving Moss.

“We always let them know that when you decide to leave, that is the most dangerous time. And the reason being is because the abuser is losing that power and control. That’s what domestic violence is,” said Hall.
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Davis had a Temporary Protection Order against Moss. It’s something Hall says is valuable in a domestic violence case.

“A TPO is great to have. It warrants arrest if they break that TPO but I warn that it’s just a piece of paper,” said Hall.

District Attorney Natalie Paine is very familiar with domestic violence cases.

“Domestic violence cases are always a concern for law enforcement and for a prosecutor because they can become so volatile so quick,” said Paine.

Paine says right now, there’s no wording in any Temporary Protection Order that would keep guns away from alleged abusers.

Paine says there’s a reason for that, especially with the first TPO a victim receives.

“At that point in time, it’s usually ex-parte meaning the defendant is not there to voice his side and they are afforded due process,” said Paine.

Taking the accuser’s gun away before a crime has been committed is unconstitutional.

“Before we’re going to take someone’s rights away, we want to make sure they have the opportunity to be heard and make sure the statements are valid,” said Paine.

Paine says guns can be taken away once there are criminal charges, on a case by case basis.

“If there are criminal charges, the judge could always make a condition of bond that the defendant is not allowed to posses any firearms,” said Paine.

But, Hall says there needs to be more done to get guns out of the picture.

“Domestic violence is a state wide problem, it’s a community problem and we need to start looking at these laws and try to make a difference in the lives of the victim,” said Hall.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, there is a way out.

Head to the SafeHomes of Augusta Domestic Intervention Center website at : http://www.safehomesdv.org/.

You can also call SafeHomes 24 HR Crisis Hotline – 706.736.2499  or 1.800.799.SAFE.

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