Law enforcement trying to get guns out of the hands of violent offenders in NE Ohio

Posted at 4:36 PM, Oct 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-03 18:16:42-04

Trying to close the loopholes that leave so many women at risk.

We're learning more about the latest push to better protect abuse victims in Ohio.

Law enforcement agencies are teaming up to indict men convicted on domestic violence charges who are breaking the law again by owning a gun.

It’s a problem News 5 has been tracking for years.

The U.S. Attorney's Office of Northern Ohio is leading the charge to try and get guns out of the hands of convicted or alleged abusers.

The move comes on the heels of our year-long investigation '’til Death."

The investigation focused on the flaws in our legal system that leave women five times more likely to be murdered if their abuser has a gun.

"We know that domestic abusers are more likely to pull the trigger on a firearm," said Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio.

Keeping the fingers of violent offenders off that trigger is a top priority for Herdman.

"The bottom-line is if you use a firearm to prey on someone we will send you to prison," said Herdman.

Herdman made a stop at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center Wednesday to announce his office is stepping up its crack down on convicted domestic abusers who have guns.

Between 2016 and 2017, 116 domestic violence deaths were reported in Ohio, 85 percent of them due to firearms.

"That is an alarming statistic, and it's one that we can certainly feel like we can make an impact with this initiative," said Herdman.

In the last year, the U.S. Attorney’s office filed more than 250 firearms indictments, a 50 percent increase from 2017.

"I commend the U.S. Attorney for what they're doing," said Alexandria Ruden, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

Ruden said there are no state laws mandating guns be confiscated from those charged with misdemeanor domestic violence or from those who are the focus of civil protection orders.

"This will go a long way, especially when they are repeat offenders - in taking guns away from these people who are not supposed to have guns pursuant to federal law," said Ruden.

Right now, there are no follow up procedures to remove weapons from violent situations. But the ATF said if someone feels threatened, or has filed a temporary protection order, they will investigate and confiscate the firearm.

This move is not only designed to better protect victims living in fear, but also to keep police officers who respond to domestic violence calls out of harm’s way.

Three officers were killed in Ohio last year.

"There is a blessing, there is hope for our victims to put these bad guys away a long time," said Jeff Follmer, Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association.

If someone hasn't been convicted, but has an active protection order, a gun ban would remain in place for as long as that order was in effect.

In Ohio, they last five years.

The U.S. Attorney here in Northern Ohio said they are seeing results prosecuting these cases at the federal level and they're just getting started.