Local News

Military Taking Guns to Fight Abuse

Posted October 23, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Many of the 1.4 million men and women in the military are required to carry 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, the Department of Defense implemented a policy Wednesday that allows commanders in the military to take weapons and ammunition from any service member who's been convicted of domestic abuse.

Military-wide, 1.8 percent of spouses were abused. Though that sounds like 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 soldiers could find themselves doing their jobs without their guns. As part of a federal law passed last year, military commanders have just now been given permission to take away weapons and ammunition from any service member who's been convicted of domestic abuse.

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

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

A Pentagon study last year found that more than 50,000 members of the military had 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 are lower than that. And military leaders say that's because Fort Bragg is trying to crack down on domestic abuse.

"We want to identify soldiers with problems, and get them into treatment to 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 soliders will be forced out because their jobs require that they use weapons.

Domestic abuse counselors say having the military comply with the new law will 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 that ask whether or not they've been convicted of domestic abuse. To make sure they are are truthful, anyone caught lying can be prosecuted and thrown out 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 result in death than domestic encounters without guns.

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