Domestic violence continues to plague communities around the country and here in Western New York.
"We respond to the hospital whenever a victim of sexual or domestic violence presents in any Erie County emergency department. We generally work with, just from a hospital response alone, over 900 survivors," said Caitlin Powalski, the Crisis Services Advocate Program Director.
State Lawmakers have now passed legislation that they say will further protect survivors of domestic violence. The law includes the mandatory surrender of firearms after all domestic violence convictions and whenever a judge issues an order of protection.
“This will save lives. Fifty percent of all women in this country who are murdered are murdered by an intimate partner," said Flynn, (D) Erie County District Attorney.
The folks at Defensor Incorporated, who train people on how to use guns, say they support laws that limit access to weapons to people who are likely to be violent. But they say in this case, the law wasn't necessary.
"The 1996 federal Lautenberg Amendment actually already does what the governor's bill proposes to do. So it's interesting that there's a duplicative state law now put in place to do what's already done at the federal level," said Steve Felano, the Defensor Inc. Director of Partnerships.
David Ditullio, the Defensor Inc. chief operations officer added, "Some people on the gun rights side of it will argue that they're concerned over the chipping away of our second amendment. Where does that line get drawn. I think that line is drawn in our penal law system. So it's just making sure that we use that as a guideline."
The governor's office says the state law closes certain gaps — such as the so-called boyfriend loophole — where previously partners who were dating but didn't live together wouldn't have to give up their guns if convicted of certain offenses. And regardless of which side of the debate you're on, both sides agree that more needs to be done to curb domestic and sexual violence.
"I think more sharing of information, especially across judicial lines, so that information is available when there is a history of domestic violence," said Gregory White, director of the Catholic Charities domestic violence program for men.
Felano said, "We need to be focusing on consequences for those who don't upkeep those records to include those in the military capacity."
"I would love to see multidisciplinary responses at our medical, victim service levels, legislative levels, our law enforcement levels that we continue to believe survivors. We continue to create avenues for them to get help and we continue to hold perpetrators accountable," said Powalski.
The local 24-hour domestic violence hotline number is 716-862-4357.