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Human Interest

Address domestic abuse and mental health hospitalization

The Ogden Reporter of Ogden, Iowa

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IN AN EFFORT to protect women and men who are victims of domestic violence, the Iowa House passed Senate File 2357, a bill intended to further protect victims of domestic violence from perpetrators who are the subject of a protective order or convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun.

While federal law already protects victims, law enforcement officials have found the federal law difficult to enforce because most domestic violence cases are settled in the Iowa court system. Iowa judges and law enforcement officials requested the federal law be written into the Iowa code to make it easier to enforce.

The Senate File 2357 states that if a judge approves a protective order, after a hearing where both parties have the opportunity to be present before the judge, the perpetrator must give up his guns while the protective order is in place. The perpetrator has three options when required by a judge to relinquish their guns: hand the guns over to a person approved by the court, sell the guns, or turn the guns over to local law enforcement. The person is eligible to receive the weapons back upon expiration of the protective order. The bill must now go back to the Senate for consideration of the House's changes before the bill can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

After the shooting death of Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas last year, the Iowa House passed a bill to update procedures for notifying law enforcement of the release of individuals hospitalized for a serious mental impairment. Convicted shooter Mark Becker was released from a Waterloo hospital with charges pending, but law enforcement was not notified. Becker then drove from the hospital to Parkersburg and fatally shot Thomas the next day. Becker was found guilty of murder last week.

Senate File 2352 streamlines the process for law enforcement to be notified and addresses gaps in the system to assure law enforcement is notified. The bill clarifies that a law enforcement officer can request that any court order include a requirement that the law enforcement agency is notified when an individual hospitalized for a serious mental injury is discharged. In addition, the bill provides an administrative process for law enforcement to use so they will be notified in this situation if a court order has not yet been completed. The bill will now go to the Governor for his signature.

I am always interested in hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me at Donovan.olson@legis.state. or at 515-281-3221.

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Original Publication Date: March 17, 2010

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