How a Dallas County Judge Combats the Deadly Mix of Domestic Violence and Guns

The tragic story out of Plano of 27-year-old Meredith Hight fatally shot, along with seven others, by her estranged husband, Spencer, underscored what experts have said for years: Abused women are five times as likely to be killed if the abuser owns a firearm. For two years, criminal court Judge Roberto Cañas has spearheaded an effort to educate and train judges on a Dallas County gun surrender program aimed at getting guns out of abusers' hands. Cañas, who oversees a misdemeanor domestic violence court, says there's finally action behind the talk. We spoke with him — before the Plano shooting — about why this program is critical for domestic violence victims.State and federal laws already forbid convicted abusers and those subject to protective orders from having firearms. Why was this program needed?For the first time, it gives judges a viable process to determine compliance with state and federal laws. There was no process for surrendering these weapons. Judges rarely asked defendants if they had them, and there no process for verifying if they surrendered them. The goal here is to make sure a domestic violence abuser is compliant with the law. We've finally done something that can bring a little extra peace to families and reassurances to the community.You not only order surrender of weapons as a condition of probation but also as a condition of bond. Why?The intersection of guns and domestic violence is high. You don't want a situation that someone has to die before we do something about this. It shouldn't take a high-profile case to keep the focus on making sure guns are out of the marketplace.  Continue reading...

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