May 26, 2017
DALLAS (SMU) – Under Texas and Federal law, individuals convicted of domestic abuse are required to surrender any firearms they possess – but it rarely happens.
A team of SMU law students who spent the past year studying Dallas County’s gun-surrender efforts presented their recommendations for improving the program at a 9 a.m. press conference at the Twelfth Annual Conference on Crimes Against Women on May 24.
“It is estimated that between 7,000 and 8,000 cases of domestic violence go through the courts each year in Dallas County, and yet only 60 guns have been turned in over the past two years,” says SMU Law professor Natalie Nanasi, director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women. Nanasie advised law students Laura Choi, Rachel Elkin and Monica Harasim in assembling the report.
“We spent the past year looking at other programs around the country, like El Paso, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, and developed recommendations on how to improve what’s being done in Dallas County,” Harasim says.
Proposed solutions include best-practice training for judges, the creation of a centralized office to coordinate efforts and increasing funding,.
“Statistics show that the presence of a firearm in a domestic violence situation increases the likelihood of death by 500 percent,” Elkin says. “We hope that this report can be a tool for Dallas County leaders to use to expand and improve the Gun Surrender Program.”
The students presented their findings alongside Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Roberto Cañas, who first attempted to tackle the gun-surrender problem in Dallas County in 2015 by soliciting a grant and launching a program responsible for collecting the 60 guns over two years.
Before that, there were no organized efforts to collect guns from domestic abusers.
“Initial estimates suggested that Judge Cañas’ program would collect approximately 800 guns per year, but those estimates assumed that all judges in Dallas County would participate in the program equally, (which didn’t turn out to be the case),” says Choi. “There's no question that the program sends an important message just by existing. The fact that the program is here and is collecting weapons speaks volumes to Dallas County's commitment to survivor safety.”
A nationally ranked private university with seven degree-granting schools, SMU is a distinguished center for teaching and research located near the heart of Dallas. SMU's11,000 students benefit from small classes, research opportunities, leadership development, international study and innovative programs. The University is strengthened by its partnership with the Dallas region, a global center of commerce and culture. SMU students, faculty and alumni are changing the world through their chosen fields, civic engagement and service to society.
The Conference on Crimes Against Women (CCAW) was created to educate prosecutors, advocates and members of law enforcement on ways to investigate, prosecute, and prevent crimes all violent crimes against women. Now in its twelfth year, CCAW attracts international attendees and national leading experts in their fields. The twelfth annual Conference on Crimes Against Women will be held May 22 – 25, 2017 at the Sheraton Downtown Dallas. For additional information about the Conference, please visit www.conferencecaw.org.
Since its founding in 1985, Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support has been committed to providing quality safety and shelter to battered women and their children through crisis intervention and short-term crisis therapeutics and to reduce the occurrence of violence against women and children in the greater Dallas area. Genesis is also committed to raising the level of community awareness regarding the pervasiveness and effects of domestic violence. The organization provides free and confidential counseling and case management to more than 700 residential clients and 2,500 non-residential clients each year. For additional information, please visit www.genesisshelter.org.