COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A new project launching in Columbus aims to prevent domestic violence from turning deadly.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein launched a federal grant-assisted program Tuesday known as the Firearms Technical Assistance Project (FTAP).
Columbus is among six communities throughout the U.S. awarded with funding and guidance from the Department of Justice to help enforce domestic violence-related gun laws.
“We have sheriffs, police, prosecutors, victim advocates, the court system, all coming together in this room so we can figure out ways to improve community safety and all be on the same page, rowing in the same direction to protect victims and children,” Klein said.
In 2018, the Columbus City Council passed several ordinances preventing domestic abusers and other violent offenders from possessing firearms.
A court upheld the measures after gun rights advocates sued to overturn them.
Federal law also prohibits violent offenders from possessing firearms and ammunition.
Klein explained the difficulty in enforcing the laws and prosecuting suspected abusers currently poses challenges.
“There is a loophole in the state of Ohio law that allows domestic violence offenders and convicts to possess guns,” he said. “We need to come together and figure out the best practices for everyone so everyone’s on the same page to streamline the process.”
Victims’ advocates call domestic violence a public safety risk and one that could be lessened if fewer abusers had access to guns.
“I hope, on my end, I’m seeing fewer victims coming into our shelter and [using] other services at Choices that have been threatened with a weapon or are in fear of being harmed with a weapon,” said Sue Villilo, the acting executive director for Choices for Victims of Domestic Violence.
Over the next several months, stakeholders will work with federal experts to train, collaborate and develop comprehensive strategies for enforcing existing gun laws.