The Louisiana Legislature backed several bills Tuesday that seek to provide additional layers of protection for domestic violence victims.
Three bills are on their way to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk following approval from the House and Senate.
Together, they would ban domestic abusers from carrying guns, give authorities more leeway in arresting perpetrators of domestic violence and strengthen penalties for domestic assault.
Additionally, the Senate Judiciary C Committee unanimously passed House Bill 1142, which has been dubbed “Gwen’s Law,” on Tuesday morning. That sends the measure to the full state Senate for consideration.
Named for Gwen Salley, who was killed in an apparent murder-suicide slightly more than a week ago, the legislation creates a “cooling off” period for those accused of domestic violence by requiring protective orders be issued at the time of bail in some cases.
The legislation only applies to felony cases and requires a hearing to assess the probability of future harm. Judges can opt to hold in jail accused domestic abusers, if their alleged victims are believed to be in danger.
Theresa Donald said she believes her sister, Gwen Salley of Desoto Parish, would still be alive if the proposed law were in place.
Salley, 39, was seeking a divorce from her estranged husband, Michael Salley, who authorities say kidnapped her, shot her, then killed himself, all while he was on bail for a domestic violence incident. The couple is survived by a 7-year-old daughter.
“He’d threatened to kill her and her daughter for years,” Donald said. “She finally got the courage to leave.”
Donald said she went with her sister to file for a divorce and a restraining order. “Everything she was supposed to do,” she said.
Just days before taking both lives, Michael Salley was charged in another case involving his estranged wife with false imprisonment, unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon and aggravated assault with a firearm.
He was detained for about 18 hours and bonded out the next day, Donald said.
“(Gwen Salley) had no say in when he was released,” she said. “We were under the impression he would be detained at least for three days, but he wasn’t.”
State Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, said he wanted the details of Salley’s case known to show “why the bill is necessary.”
Gary Evans, Gwen Salley’s attorney and friend, said HB1142 is needed because of Louisiana’s relatively high rate of domestic violence. The state routinely ranks near the top of the Violence Policy Center’s tracking of domestic violence incidents per capita.
“It gives the victim an opportunity to plead for her life,” he said. “She never had an opportunity to say ‘Please don’t release this man.’”
The executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, Pete Adams, also spoke in favor of the legislation.
More than 250 people have signed an online petition in support of HB1142.
State Rep. Helena N. Moreno, D-New Orleans, sponsored the three bills on the way to Jindal. All three passed the House unanimously with little discussion Tuesday, following what Moreno described as minor tweaks from the Senate.
The bills drew the attention of anti-domestic violence advocates earlier this session.
House Bill 753 would prohibit anyone who has been issued an injunction or protective order stemming from a domestic violence incidence from carrying a gun until the order is lifted.
House Bill 750 expedites protective orders and directs officers to arrest abusing parties in domestic disputes. House Bill 747 would add domestic abuse aggravated assault to the state’s list of violent crimes. The bill would also increase the potential penalty for offenders convicted of second offense domestic abuse battery from six months to one year.
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp.