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Military Taking Guns to Fight Abuse

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Guns are an everyday item for military personnel to carry. Soon, domestic violence offenders could be turning theirs in.
FORT BRAGG — Many of the 1.4 million men and women in the military are required tocarry guns. Their careers could be in jeopardy if they've been convicted of domestic abuse since September 30th of last year.

A year after a federal law was passed to cut down on domestic abuse, theDepartment of Defense implemented a policy Wednesday that allowscommanders in the military to take weapons and ammunition from any servicemember who's been convicted of domestic abuse.

Military-wide, 1.8 percent of spouses were abused. Though that soundslike a small number, many feel the latest action will help further cut down those numbers.

They fight for freedom and for peace. But fight at home, and soldierscould find themselves doing their jobs without their guns. As part of afederal law passed last year, military commanders have just now been givenpermission to take away weapons and ammunition from any service memberwho's been convicted of domestic abuse.

"I guess it will effect soldiers' jobs," explains Care Center ProgramDirector, Crystal Black, "and maybe that will make them think twice aboutdomestic violence if they know their job is going to be affected."

Black works with domestic violence offenders and victims. She says themeasures are very much needed.

A Pentagon study last year found that more than 50,000 members of the militaryhad hit or hurt their spouse between 1991 and 1995. Last year, the Army recorded about 3% of spouses had been abused. Fort Bragg's numbers arelower than that. And military leaders say that's because Fort Bragg istrying to crack down on domestic abuse.

"We want to identify soldiers with problems, and get them into treatmentto try to prevent it from happening again," says LTC Bob Gombeski.

But no one's sure what effect the new law will have. Some fear soliderswill be forced out because their jobs require that they use weapons.

Domestic abuse counselors say having the military comply with the new lawwill send a strong message that fighting battles in the field is one thing, but fighting it out home won't be allowed.

The military is requiring all service men and women fill out forms thatask whether or not they've been convicted of domestic abuse. To make surethey are are truthful, anyone caught lying can be prosecuted and thrownout of the military.

Editors Note:Statistics show guns and domestic violence are a deadly combination. According to the Violence Policy Center,firearm-associated domestic assaults were 12 times more likely to resultin death than domestic encounters without guns.

Women are also twice as likely to be murdered by a husband or acquaintanceusing a gun than by a stranger.

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