Critics push for stronger domestic violence laws

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ATLANTA - Some critics say a new Georgia law to protect domestic violence victims doesn't go far enough.
 

A Channel 2 Action News investigation found that in Georgia, people who have a temporary protective order against them can still keep their weapons.
 
Kimberly Brusk is a victim of domestic abuse.  A judge authorized a temporary protective order against her husband in 2009 after he caused bruises on her arm.
 
Several days later, she came home to find all the lights off inside her house.
 
"I opened the door and I turned the lights on, and he's standing there with a shotgun in his hand, and he's about 3 feet away from me," Brusk said.  "The gun went off as I was turning, around to run.”
 
Brusk wasn't hit and ran to a neighbor's house to call 911.  Police arrested her husband three hours later.
 
Authorities in Cobb County arrested Donna Kristofak's estranged husband, John, after they found her stabbed to death in December 2012.
 
Just two months earlier, Donna Kristofak told a Cobb County judge a temporary protective order would not keep her husband away.
 
Court transcripts show she said, “May I ask, your honor, that it be on the record that I fear for my life?”
 
Her husband pleaded guilty to murder this week.
 
Meg Rogers is the executive director of the Cherokee Family Violence Shelter. She said protective orders are not going to make a victim safe.  Her advice to women after requesting a TPO is to go into hiding.
 
"If they are letting these guys bond out of jail and are not arresting him when he violates the TPO, if they're just putting him on probation when he's convicted, that's not safe," Rogers said.
 
Part of the reason is Georgia's law. Once a TPO is signed, there is no requirement for the person served to surrender weapons.  Even if a judge requests it, it is up to the person to comply.
 
Cherokee County is going a step further than most counties, but it's not foolproof.  Deputies are sent out to collect weapons after TPOs are issued.
 
"We ask them, do you have any guns?  Do you have any ammunition?" said Lt. Cherokee County Sheriff’s Lt. Jay Baker.  "You have to go by the word. It is not a search warrant.  We don't go into their homes searching for weapons."
 
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver just helped pass Senate Bill 86, which became law in May. She said a person who violates a court order is a very dangerous person.
 
"The legislation would allow the immediate arrest of a violator of a domestic violence order, without going to a judge.  That's eliminating a step," Oliver said.
 
When it comes to the mandatory surrender of weapons by a TPO violator, Oliver said that's something to worth researching.
 
Brusk agreed.  She has become an advocate to help other women survive domestic violence, and to make domestic violence sentences stronger.
 
"If he had done this to a stranger, he'd be looking at a year," Brusk said.  "But because he beat up his wife, he only got three months.  And that's the maximum.  We have to treat domestic violence like any other violence."



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