Local News

N.C. Bills Designed To Protect Children, Families Become Law

Posted August 13, 2003

— Gov. Mike Easley signed five bills designed to protect families and children into law Wednesday. The bills cover everything from sudden infant death syndrome to domestic violence.

Easley signed Senate Bill 919, which will stop high-risk domestic violence abusers from purchasing or possessing firearms while under court order. The new law aims to protect victims from abusers who have a history of using deadly weapons or threatening to kill or seriously injure their spouse or children.

A bill that makes it a crime to commit domestic violence in the presence of a child was also signed into law. House Bill 926, which earlier won unanimous approval by the General Assembly, will help battered spouses protect their children from abusers in custody disputes and allow children from homes where domestic violence occurs to be treated as victims in their own right.

"Kaitlin's Law," makes it illegal for day-care workers to give medication to a child without their parent's permission. Childcare providers must also have children sleep on their backs to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome. Teachers can automatically lose their teaching certificate if convicted of certain crimes.

Tuesday, the state House announced the creation of a special committee to examine domestic violence in North Carolina.

"Last year 74 women and men were killed by a spouse or significant other," said Rep. Richard Morgan, Co-House Speaker.

That number marks a 32 percent increase from the year before.

The 24-member committee of legislators will make recommendations next spring after a series of meetings to hear testimony and collect information. It will also look into expanding the definition of domestic violence to include verbal abuse.

The bill was inspired by the Alan Gates killings in Orange County last summer. Gates, who had a history of nine abuse charges, admitted to killing his own daughter, her friend and a 2-year-old boy.

"We're dealing with real life and death situations here," said Adam Hartzell, who works with victims of domestic violence.

Hartzell said the bill is a good start.

"They're recognizing that there does need to be more done to help women who find themselves in these situations," he said.

The House committee plans to introduce new domestic violence legislation by the April session.

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