Editorials

Use GPS monitoring on abusers and confiscate their guns

Diana Ross, right, sat in front of her daughter’s portrait at Amanda Ross’s 2009 funeral. Former state lawmaker Steve Nunn pleaded guilty to her murder. Ross successfully advocated for a law for GPS monitoring of those who violate protective orders.
Diana Ross, right, sat in front of her daughter’s portrait at Amanda Ross’s 2009 funeral. Former state lawmaker Steve Nunn pleaded guilty to her murder. Ross successfully advocated for a law for GPS monitoring of those who violate protective orders. Herald-Leader file photo

The unwillingness of Kentucky law enforcement and judges to use GPS monitoring for abusers who violate protective orders continues to be disappointing. Even with the 2010 Amanda’s Law encouraging it, monitoring has been used only twice in the last three years, according to Herald-Leader reporter Jack Brammer.

The law resulted from the high-profile murder of Amanda Ross, shot by her ex-boyfriend, former state representative Steve Nunn. The case drew national attention and a cast much-needed spotlight on efforts to prevent domestic violence.

Advocates of the monitoring — which sends alerts to the abused and police when the abuser is within a court-determined distance — suggest there should be more education about the option, grants to help counties set up systems and even some tweaking of the law by legislators. At least 22 other states have laws allowing some version of GPS monitoring; some study of the best practices makes sense.

But Kentucky also needs to address engrained attitudes that restrictions — GPS monitoring and even confiscating guns from violators of protective orders — are somehow unfair to the abuser.

That attitude weakens Amanda’s Law, restricting GPS monitoring to those with “substantial” violations of a protective order — stalking, burglary or kidnapping, for example. By that time, judges are considering jail time for the violator and the victim could be dead.

Kentucky is among the 10 states with the highest rate of women killed by men, reports the Violence Policy Center in an analysis of FBI homicide data. In more than two-thirds of the cases, intimate partners did the killing.

Forty-five percent of Kentucky women will experience violence or stalking by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Twenty-three percent will be stalked — one of the nation’s highest rates; 39 percent will be sexually assaulted, compared to the national rate of 36 percent.

Kentucky has made progress in addressing domestic violence in recent years, such as expanding legal protections to dating partners and allowing long-term survivors to break rental leases and add extra security to homes.

Removing guns would have significant impact in the deaths. Counties have the option of requiring the surrender of firearms when issuing emergency protective or domestic violence orders; it should be standard practice, reinforced by state law and oversight.

More than three-fourths of the time, guns are used in intimate-partner deaths. The presence of a firearm in domestic violence situations increases the homicide risk to women by 500 percent, according to research in the American Journal of Public Health.

At least 27 states have curtailed access to guns by domestic abusers; 17 require them to surrender guns, showing a nearly 10 percent lower rate in intimate-partner homicides, according to a Boston University study.

None of these efforts are panaceas. But we need to counter domestic violence on multiple fronts. It’s not just one couple’s problem; it’s part of the cycle of addiction, child abuse, homelessness and incarceration. It’s everybody’s business.

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