The Pennsylvania Senate today passed several major domestic violence bills, including landmark legislation sponsored by Senators Tom Killion (R-9th) and Tom McGarrigle (R-26th). The bills, which provide additional protections for victims of domestic violence, all received bipartisan unanimous votes.
Senate Bill 501, sponsored by Senator Killion, was among the bills approved in the Senate. This bill will require for the first time in Pennsylvania the relinquishment of all guns by individuals who are the subject of Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders, and this must be done within 24 hours. The legislation also dramatically shortens from 60 days to 48 hours the time defendants convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence must surrender their guns.
Killion’s bill also bans Pennsylvania’s unsafe practice of allowing friends and family members outside of abusers’ households to store firearms surrendered by these individuals. This change in the law will make it impossible for abusers to retrieve their guns and commit further acts of violence.
Senator McGarrigle’s legislation, Senate Bill 502, makes it easier for the court to extend a PFA order when an abuser is released from custody. Specifically, it extends any existing protection order for 90 days after the defendant has been released from incarceration. In addition, under the measure, the victim will not be required to show that the defendant engaged in a new threatening act to gain this protection.
“Domestic violence sidetracks victims from pursuing fulfilling, productive lives. It creates disastrous role models for children who witness it – giving children a twisted lesson on how adults are expected to behave, and what victims are expected to endure,” said McGarrigle. “These efforts will help put an end to domestic violence in Pennsylvania.”
“Today’s action by the Senate is an important step in providing much-needed protections for victims of domestic violence,” said Killion. “My legislation will keep guns out of the hands of abusers. It will save lives,” he added.
Other domestic violence bills co-sponsored by Killion and McGarrigle and passed by the Senate today include:
Senate Bill 1011 amends the state Constitution to creating a crime victims “Bill of Rights.” Marsy’s Law will ensure that victims of violent crime must by law be treated with respect and dignity by the criminal justice system. Courts must consider the safety of victims and families when setting bail and release conditions, and family members must have legal standing in bail hearings, pleas, sentencing and parole hearings.
Senate Bill 449, also known as Tierne’s Law, clarifies existing law that allows judges to use risk assessment tools when setting bail in domestic violence cases. These tools have proven to be effective in predicting an abuser’s odds of re-offending and creating a dangerous circumstance for victims.
Senate Bill 500 for a law enforcement official to accompany a victim to his or her residence before or during the service of a PFA order.
Senate Bill 313 makes it easier for domestic violence victims to remove the name of an abuser from a shared telephone plan.
Senate Bill 919 allows domestic violence victims who live in public housing to be relocated to another unit.
Senators Killion and McGarrigle are hopeful the package of domestic violence bills will be considered in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and then sent to Governor Tom Wolf for his signature.