During Domestic Violence Month, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) encourages her constituents to learn about domestic violence, one of the most insidious crimes prevalent in our society.
Paulin’s passion for protecting the vulnerable is reflected in her work as a lawmaker. As a former Executive Director of My Sisters’ Place, a Westchester County non-profit organization dedicated to support victims of domestic violence, Paulin learned first hand about the callousness of domestic violence crimes and the destructive effect – physical, economic and emotional – even one incident can have on the victims and their families. Passing laws to reduce the number of domestic violence crimes and appropriately punish the perpetrators are among her highest priorities in the NYS Assembly. For her leadership and successful advocacy, Paulin was named a Leader in the Fight Against Domestic Violence by the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In the last legislative session, Paulin authored crucial legislation signed into law to create a mechanism for courts to report convictions of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence to the FBI so that convicted abusers who are prohibited by federal law from buying guns are prevented from buying a gun in New York.
“The federal government provided states the framework to ensure that guns aren’t sold to domestic violence abusers, but New York, like most states, did not provide the FBI critical information to enable it to determine whether a convicted abuser was ineligible to buy a gun,” explained Assemblywoman Paulin. “The tragic deaths of Jessica Welch and Officer John Falcone, who were both shot and killed by Jessica’s husband in Poughkeepsie earlier this year, highlighted the urgent need to close this gap.”
Paulin added that she was deeply moved by a note she received from Jessica Welch’s aunt in Tennessee. “Her pain over Jessica’s senseless death and her hope that this bill would prevent the deaths of other victims of domestic violence reinforced my determination that this legislation become law.”
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, four women are killed by their current or former husbands or boyfriends every day in the United States. A firearm is the most frequently used weapon in these murders. Firearms and threats of murder are often used to intimidate a woman into staying in a violent relationship. In addition, abusers who kill their intimate partners often injure or kill third parties according to a report by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Million Mom March. Other victims include children, mediators, and bystanders.
In New York, in 2009 there were 130 domestic homicides. Of these, more than two-thirds were committed by intimate partners, the rest by other family members. A firearm was used in approximately 25% of these homicides, second only to knives and other cutting instruments. According to the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines throughout the State received nearly 390,000 calls last year, with 73 homicides committed by intimate partners reported.
“Firearms are frequently used by abusers in domestic violence crimes to intimidate, injure and kill their victims,” said Janet DiFiore, Westchester County District Attorney and president of The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. “The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York is taking the lead to assure that the law Assemblywoman Paulin authored and championed is effectively implemented, thereby keeping firearms out of the hands of convicted offenders.“
The new law (Ch. 258 of 2011) has won praise from domestic violence advocates throughout the state:
“Guns and domestic violence are a deadly combination. Should someone who physically assaults or cuts off the breathing of his or her significant other have access to firearms? The federal government says no, and we agree,” said Karen Cheeks-Lomax, Executive Director of My Sisters' Place, a domestic violence shelter, advocacy and education organization in Westchester. “New York has the ability and the obligation to protect its citizens by keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic violence criminals, and this law will help make that a reality. Thanks to the leadership of Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, New York will now be able to comply with existing federal law and upload these misdemeanor domestic violence records to the federal firearm background check system. Lives will be saved because of this law.”
“The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV) applauds the passage of this important legislation. Strengthening existing law is critical to supporting New York State’s zero tolerance policy towards domestic violence. If offenders are told that they are prohibited from doing something because of the crimes they commit against their intimate partner or family member, then that prohibition must be enforced. NYSCADV believes that this legislation will result in increased victim safety,” remarked Michele McKeon, Chief Executive Officer of NYSCADV.
The Governor stated, "we have seen too often the tragic consequences of domestic violence. This new law provides further safeguards to keep firearms away from those with violent records," Governor Cuomo said. "New York State must stand strong against domestic violence by protecting victims and making sure those convicted of such crimes cannot inflict further damage. I thank the sponsors, Senator Saland and Assemblywoman Paulin, for their hard work on this important legislation."
Paulin also passed a law this session to increase the length of time a domestic violence victim is protected by a final order of protection.
“Domestic violence is an issue that is very hard to bring into the light,” Paulin said. “So many victims suffer in silence and misplaced shame, reluctant to report the crimes against them and to speak out on their own behalf. It is the responsibility of the rest of us to speak out and do all we can to ensure their safety.”
If you or someone you know is in need of support from a violent intimate partner, please call My Sisters' Place hotline at 1-800-298-SAFE (7233) or the NYSCADV hotline at 1-800-942-6906.