New laws aimed at stopping domestic violence

By Kris Schuller |

Published 04/16 2014 09:03PM

Updated 04/16 2014 10:34PM

WISCONSIN (WFRV) Governor Scott Walker signed new legislation aimed at aiding in the fight against domestic violence into law Wednesday.  Domestic  violence advocates say they will save lives.

The bills are all designed to strengthen existing domestic violence laws. However, one in particular - is designed to make sure firearms are taken away from abusers.

Last December Green Bay police were forced to shoot and kill 63-year-old Darold Vandenhuevel, who violated a restraining order and showed up at his estranged wife's apartment complex, armed with a gun.

Wendy Gehl of Harbor House domestic abuse shelter in Appleton says while tragic, it could have been worse.

"We know where there is a firearm, a battered woman is five times more likely to be killed as a result of that," said Gehl.

This past legislative session state lawmakers passed a bill aimed at taking those guns away from domestic  abuse perpetrators. Wednesday Gov. Walker signed it into law.

"This legislation will offer some more tools so the system doesn't fail victims of domestic abuse," said Walker after signing the bills into law in Milwaukee.

It is called the Stopping Abuse through Enforcement or SAFE act. The bill requires courts to verify that violent offenders surrender their firearms in accordance with long-standing law in Wisconsin - and if not - to issue an arrest warrant.

According to the group End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, a 2008 study found the vast majority of counties did not actively enforce the surrender requirement.

"It's not uncommon for someone who has weapons," says Gehl. "They don't want to turn them over and often times there needs to be someone to oversee that this is done."

Gehl says this bill ensures weapons will be removed - and as a result, lives will be saved.

Perhaps had it been in place at the time of this incident, Green Bay police would not have been forced to take this man's life.

In 2012, domestic violence claimed 52 lives in Wisconsin. Also made law today - bills that now define stalking as domestic abuse and another that requires police to tell victims of all their options, under the law.

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