State lawmaker files bills to further protect victims of domestic violence

AUSTIN, Texas – A state representative from Austin is pushing two bills that would take guns away from domestic violence suspects and will also help victims escape dangerous relationships.

House Bill 1208 and HB 1209 were introduced by state Sen. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, to reinforce state laws dealing with family violence.

“This is about public safety. We want to ensure that people that are victims of family violence are not at risk of getting killed or serious injury,” Rodriguez said.

What questions do you have about domestic violence and 'Loving in Fear'?

HB 1208 would force a standard process across the state for suspects to surrender their weapons when a protective order is filed. Rodriguez said current law is followed through an honor system.

“It’s one of the weakest points in that formula. They ask the perp, ‘Do you own any guns?’ And the perp is supposed to say, ‘Yes, I do’ or ‘No, I do not,’” said Marta Pelaez, with Family Violence Prevention Services.

In Bexar County, Pelaez said, there’s a loophole in the current law. The bills ask that agencies create a system to keep track of weapons in homes that have experienced domestic violence.

“The problem is, it's very, very rarely enforced because there's no storage facility, there's no set place where they can store the weapons,” Rodriguez said.

In Bexar County, San Antonio police take possession of weapons for storage.

HB 1209 would help a domestic violence victim get to hiding quickly.

“What it’s trying to do is prevent homelessness,” Pelaez said.

Current law only allows the usage of protective order to get out of a lease, which could take a week or longer to get out. The bill would amend the law to include documents such as an emergency room doctor’s note, an emergency magistrate order or a letter from a family violence prevention agency as proof to a landlord.

“This could very well save lives,” Pelaez said.

“If this bill passes, which I hope it will, it’s the education process, getting that out there so that people know it’s available to them,” Rodriguez said.

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Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.