Law enforcement, court officials learn new law helping keep guns out of domestic abusers’ hands

 

With a new Louisiana law designed to further protect domestic violence victims taking effect in coming weeks, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office is engaged in a statewide effort to educate law enforcement and court officials to ensure that certain offenders are not possessing firearms.

In addition to helping with the training seminars, the DA’s Office on Wednesday (Sept. 12) hosted a regional training session in its Media Room. It was the second of seven such regional events that are scheduled at sites across Louisiana before the law, Act 367, takes effect on Oct. 1.

Based on legislation authored by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans during the 2018 legislative session and signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in May, Act 367 requires that local authorities coordinate in developing policies on how to remove firearms from people who are prohibited from possessing them because of civil and criminal protective orders and domestic violence convictions.

“There has to be a bit of statewide uniformity in this process,” Jefferson Parish Assistant District Attorney Sunny Funk, chief of the Domestic Violence Unit, told about 50 attendees during Wednesday’s session in the JPDA Media Room in Gretna.

The law requires, for instance, that the sheriffs’ offices, clerks of court and district attorneys shall develop forms, policies and procedures by Jan. 1, 2019, detailing how the process is conducted.

Lt. Valerie Martinez-Jordan of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, who has taken on a leadership role in Louisiana in ensuring that her colleagues among the state’s 64 parishes are implementing the protective measures for victims of domestic violence, told Wednesday’s attendees that they’ll return to their jurisdictions and adapt their processes to the new law.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter process for every parish,” Lt. Martinez-Jordan told the attendees.

Among other mandates, the law requires that licensed firearms dealers notify local sheriff’s offices if a person prohibited from possessing firearms attempts to purchase them. The law also imposes criminal penalties on dealers who provide firearms to prohibited people knowing that they are barred from having guns.

Judges also are to order the transfer of firearms to local sheriffs’ offices from defendants when they are convicted of certain offenses, such as domestic abuse battery and battery of a dating partner. Such defendants are required to turn over to the sheriff’s office all their firearms within 48 hours of the conviction or within 48 hours of their release from incarceration.

The firearms can be transferred to a third party or transferred to the sheriff’s offices, which in turn can place them in storage and charge the defendants “a reasonable fee” to cover the cost of storage.

Starting with the first session in Thibodaux on Friday (Sept. 7), ADA Funk, Lt. Martinez-Jordan and East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court Judge Pamela Baker, in connection with the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, are traveling across the state, meeting with local officials to help them implement Act 367’s mandates.

On Wednesday, law enforcement officials from Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Washington parishes converged on the DA’s Office Media Room for the daylong session.

Sessions are scheduled for sites in Scott, Baton Rouge, Pineville, Bossier City and Ruston. An eighth session is under consideration in New Orleans.