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New report: Guns much more likely to be present at domestic violence incidents in Texas

The 2021 State of the State report from the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) outlines key domestic violence statistics from the past two years. The report shows the number of domestic violence calls law enforcement responded to that involved a gun increased by 92.4%.

Texas law prohibits someone subject to a protective order for abuse from possessing a firearm except for law enforcement officers. But Breall Baccus from TCFV said that people with protective orders don’t always have their firearms taken away.

“A lot of counties don’t have a process in place to remove those firearms,” Baccus said.

Kathryn Jacob is the president and CEO at SafeHaven, the state-designated family violence center in Tarrant County. She said guns play a major role in domestic violence homicides.

“As far as intimate partners are concerned, year after year, the vast majority die by guns,” Jacob said.

The presence of a firearm increases a woman’s risk of being killed as much as 500%, according to the report. It also shows that women are almost four times more likely to be killed when attempting to leave their abuser than at any other point in the relationship.

Audria Maltsberger, a survivor of domestic violence and a board member at SafeHaven, said she feared for her life and her children’s lives when she thought about leaving her abuser.

“There was always the thought about leaving, but then there was the fear that that piggybacked off of it,” she said.

Maltsberger said her family had guns in the home. Her abuser didn’t even have to lay a finger on the trigger — all it took was a nod confirming that he had access to a gun to make Maltsberger feel threatened.

The presence of guns at domestic violence incidents also put law enforcement at risk. Jacob said research shows most law enforcement shot in the line of duty were killed during a domestic violence call.

“It wasn't gang. It wasn't grand theft auto. It wasn't terrorism. It was domestic,” Jacob said. “Those are the most dangerous calls that PD responds to.”

Baccus said TCFV wants the incoming Texas Legislature to help counties implement procedures to remove firearms from abusers’ possession. But a federal judge in Texas ruled last month that disarming people under protective orders violates their second amendment rights.

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at clove@kera.org.

Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

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Caroline Love