Local experts discuss link between domestic violence and mass shootings

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Exactly one week ago, 26 year-old Devin Patrick Kelley walked into a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire killing 26 people and wounding 20 others.

Many wonder how a tragedy like this could happen and while there’s no easy explanation, federal authorities have uncovered a disturbing link.

Recent FBI data shows over a 5-year period, 54% of mass shootings were related to domestic violence and that includes the most recent mass shooting in Texas.

While those numbers may be surprising, it’s something Erin Roberts is all too familiar with.

“We in the work of ending domestic and sexual violence have seen this pattern and known that this pattern was there,” said Erin Roberts; Executive Director for ‘End Violent Encounters’ also called ‘EVE.’

And mental health professionals including psychotherapist Claudia Combs-Wise backs that up.

“Statistics are showing that the mass shooters do have domestic violence in their background,” Combs-Wise stated.

It’s important to note, not all people convicted of domestic violence will become mass shooters but the connection is there and it’s been enough to inspire changes in gun ownership laws.

Right now, federal law bans people who have been convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun but Roberts says it’s a rule that’s difficult to enforce.

“Some of the difficulties when a personal protection order states that the individual cannot have firearms is who’s going to remove them?” said Roberts.

To make things even more complicated, here in Michigan there are no current laws in place backing up that federal ban.

“I think we have work to do for sure,” Roberts stated.

But regardless of how the law might change, there’s one thing both advocacy groups and mental health experts say is vital to our community…

“I think we need to continue and begin to be better about investing in prevention, education…awareness,” Roberts added.

“We definitely need more funding for more shelters and more counseling services,” said Combs-Wise.

Several state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence and just this last week, they filed several bills that aim to do just that.

House bills 4706 and 4707 would let courts issue an “extreme risk protection order.”

This order would be for certain individuals who pose a significant risk of injury to themselves or others by owning a firearm.

If issued, that individual wouldn’t be allowed to purchase or possess a gun.

House bill 5250 would require some people who are the subject of personal protection orders to give up their guns and House bill 4268 would allow people with a P.P.O. to concealed carry in certain places where it’s not normally allowed.

We’ll continue to follow those bills as they move through the state House and keep you updated with the latest.

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