Crime and Justice

Bill would prohibit gun possession by accused domestic abusers

Adolphe Lumumba
Adolphe Lumumba tells members of the House Judiciary Committee why he supports a bill that would expand firearm restrictions in relief from abuse orders. Lumumba’s sister Anako Lumumba was shot and killed in May 2018 after obtaining an emergency relief from abuse order against her boyfriend. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

The brother of a woman allegedly killed by her ex-boyfriend gave his support to legislation that would prevent people accused of domestic abuse from possessing or obtaining firearms. 

“I’m not here today to save my sister. But I know there are other people out there that can be saved by this,” Adolphe Lumumba, the brother of Anako Lumumba, told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

Anaoko Lumumba was allegedly shot and killed in South Burlington by her abusive ex-boyfriend, Leroy Headley, in May 2018.

The legislation, H.610, would prevent alleged domestic abusers from purchasing or keeping guns if a court has issued a relief from abuse order against them. 

Those orders are issued by courts against those suspected of domestic abuse, and can include requirements that prevent abusers from going near or contacting victims.  

But relief from abuse orders, which are issued through family courts, do not require alleged abusers to relinquish their weapons. 

Anako Lumumba
Anako Lumumba.

Anako Lumumba had repeatedly warned police that Headley was making death threats, and was in possession of a firearm in the months leading up to her murder. 

In December 2017, a court issued a temporary relief order against Headley, but he refused to give up his weapons. And once the order was up, police stopped efforts to seize Headley’s guns.

Adolphe Lumumba told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday that policymakers should make it easier for police to take weapons away from domestic abusers. 

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Headley has been at large since May 3, 2018, the day of Lumumba’s death.  

“They knew he was a bad guy, but they didn’t have enough to take the guns away from him,” Adolphe Lumumba said. 

“It might be too late for us, but it’s not too late for other families out there,” he said.

Lawmakers proposed an initial version of the legislation requiring firearms to be removed from an accused domestic abuser weeks after Lumumba’s death. 

Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, chair of the House Judiciary Committee and the sponsor of the legislation, said Wednesday that under the current system, many victims of domestic violence are afraid to seek relief from abuse orders because they know their former partners have weapons. 

Reps. Maxine Grad and Martin LaLonde
Reps. Maxine Grad, left, and Martin LaLonde are the sponsors of a bill that would expand firearm restrictions in relief from abuse orders. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

“The problem is that many survivors of domestic violence are scared to seek those orders, and scared to engage law enforcement, especially because there are firearms, and they know that the firearms are there, or could be accessed,” she said. “This changes that by decreasing the ability to have access to firearms.” 

South Burlington Police Chief Shawn Burke said Wednesday he supports the legislation. 

Burke said the bill should require that police conduct an investigation before a court can order law enforcement officers to take weapons away from those accused of domestic violence. The current legislation would not, and would allow victims to submit their own evidence seeking the court to remove the firearms. 

“I do think that we need the opportunity in real time, to then investigate fully that the weapons are exactly where they say they are, affirm that and then say to the court ‘Yes we need a search warrant,’” Burke said in an interview after Wednesday’s hearing.  

“I think that there needs to be an objective investigation before a warrant’s issued.” 

Chief Superior Court Judge Brian Grearson also said that law enforcement should be involved in helping victims obtain search warrants. 

“The important thing is that you should have a trained person, a police officer, to obtain the warrant and present that to a trained state’s attorney,” he told the judiciary committee.  

“I don’t know why we would want to overlook that process for a civil warrant,” Grearson said.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would consider the House’s legislation if it was sent to the Senate. 

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But Sears said he was concerned that it could result in some people who haven’t committed crimes losing access to firearms. 

Sen. Dick Sears
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, speaks after the parents of a man who committed suicide hours after buying a handgun in 2018, testified in favor of a waiting period for firearm purchases last session. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

“I support people that commit domestic violence not having firearms, I support people that murder people not having firearms. But I’m really concerned when we get to lesser proof that there has been a crime,” Sears said. 

“I don’t want to see somebody lose their weapons that hasn’t done anything.”  

The legislation proposed by House would also include a provision to close the Charleston loophole, a provision that Democrats in the House and Senate, and Gov. Phil Scott, have signaled they can support

That loophole allows gun purchasers to receive certain weapons before their federal background checks are completed. The loophole was what allowed the gunman in the deadly 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, to obtain a firearm before he ultimately failed a background check. 

Senate lawmakers will propose additional gun control measures this year, including legislation to establish a waiting period for gun purchases. Last year, Scott vetoed a bill that would have created a 24-hour waiting period for handgun purchases. 

Senators are proposing a 48-hour waiting period for all gun purchases this year. Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P Chittenden, is also proposing a bill that would ban semi-automatic weapons in some public spaces

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Jason PareKaren McIlveen1Walter CooperJude HazeltonReed Stroupe Recent comment authors
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Jack Chuter
Jack Chuter

What happened to “innocent until proven guilty” or due process? Correct me if I am wrong, but the didn’t the state pass a “red flag” (extreme risk protection order) law last year? How is this different?

An allegation should not be the basis for someone (man or woman) to loose rights.

Louis Meyers
Louis Meyers

This is one measure which can definitely save lives.

sandra bettis
sandra bettis

Who, in their right mind, could possibly be against this law? The ‘gun owners of vt’ need to take away their ‘no compromise’ philosophy and look at this realistically.

Wayne Curley
Wayne Curley

In the case of domestic violence an allegation is enough. The court would have issued a relief from abuse order. Police should get a search warrant to identify where the weapons are and seize them.

James R Sinon
James R Sinon

The so-called Charleston loophole in background checks is NOT a loophole. The law requires that IF a person is not approved (not denied but, not approved) during his/her initial BC that the Feds have 3 days to ‘show cause’ for that denial. If we close that ‘loophole’ then the Feds could deny everyone forever if they don’t have to have an actual reason for denial. Wake up people.

Laura Stone
Laura Stone

Vermont creates a culture that grows many of it’s own problems.
You can see it here every single day.

Michael Deering
Michael Deering

Who could possibly be against this law someone asks? How about the individual who is falsely accused by an angry partner? I know, you’ll say it happens very rarely. Show me statistics that say the claim to rarity is real and we can have that discussion. Is removing due process in any situation a good thing? Same issue with red flag laws and why they too will be struck down. An accused has a constitutional right to confront their accuser. As well to inspect the evidence. Not to mention equal access to the courts and a timely hearing. If this were about anything other than forearms, people would be screaming in the streets. If you had no due process to oppose another right being stripped from you, let’s say free speech, the song would change. Only firearms ever receive this kind of unconstitutional treatment. Perhaps a better approach would be to lock up an individual deemed a threat until such time as a hearing can be held. Providing there is enough supportive evidence for such a case.

Jamie Carter
Jamie Carter

“The legislation, H.610, would prevent alleged domestic abusers from purchasing or keeping guns ”

We are all entitled to due process.

Is Ms. Grad really suggesting we give up our protected right to due process? Perhaps, she isn’t cut out to chair the “judiciary” committee.

sandra bettis
sandra bettis

“Gun Owners of VT – dedicated to a no-compromise position against gun control.” (from their website)

Jon Parker
Jon Parker

If doctors and children are expected to help deprive someone of due process and civil rights, why does the legislation not apply to attorneys and other officers of the court as well?
Surely, lawyers are in a similar or better position to prevent crime. If Mr Headley’s lawyer had helped get him to turn over his guns, Ms Lumumba might still be alive.
Maybe they could just rewrite this legislation to encourage everybody to inform on everyone else.

Casey Jennings
Casey Jennings

Likely unconstitutional. There’s a lower standard to get a relief from abuse order than to get a criminal conviction. This article also left out the fact that Maxine Grad apparently just walked out of the committee when some people testified against it. Pretty unprofessional behavior.

Rich Lachapelle
Rich Lachapelle

Leroy Headley was well known to law enforcement as a troublemaker. He was also known by his intimate partner as a man capable of serious domestic violence based on prior threats and physical abuse. There was an attempt to restrain him by our system of relief from abuse orders. The law would require he stay away yet the law could not physically prevent contact. For such a lawless individual, any law that deprived him of one particular tool would simply make him move on to the next option that could be purchased at a hardware or department store or found in the garage or kitchen, such as a blunt object or blade.
“Suspected” and “accused” of domestic abuse should never be the grounds of depriving any individual of their Constitutional Rights. Anyone is free to make such allegations against another out of pure vindictiveness with little repercussion for a false claim. A high level of due process should precede ANY deprivation of Constitutional Rights.

Jack Arthur
Jack Arthur

I am going on memory here. Leroy Headley was ordered to surrender his firearm by a judge. His lawyer was suppose to hand this firearm to police but never did so. The rest is history. I am going with systemic failure.

Mary Reed
Mary Reed

The 2008 SCOTUS Heller decision held that the Washington DC ban on all usable (able to be fired) handgun possession was unconstitutional. The decision held that the right of an individual to possess a firearm (handgun) was decreed in the 2nd amendment. That was a limited decision. It did not address laws based on specific circumstances, such as a Court order that a specific individual must surrender all firearms. I could not find any SCOTUS rulings that decree a Court of competent jurisdiction, acting with cause, cannot make such an order absent a criminal conviction or that such an order denies due process or any right(s) conferred by the 2nd amendment.

Reed Stroupe
Reed Stroupe

Cops beat their partners. Take their guns away. Great law. Keep it up.

Jude Hazelton
Jude Hazelton

If only Headley had been doling out cannabis instead of violence then the authorities would have gone after him hammer & tongs. There is something seriously wrong with a system that ignores the violence perpetrated by the likes of Headley.

Walter Cooper
Walter Cooper

What is the problem we are trying to solve? How about if somebody is a credible threat, the police hold them in custody? They then get due process–including a trial by their peers–and the aggrieved party knows the offender is locked up pending that trial.

A gun can kill, but so can a meat clever, a golf club, a knife, and so on. Are we interested in the underlying problem, or in virtue-signalling? I can’t tell here.

Karen McIlveen1
Karen McIlveen1

I find this hard to swallow. My firearm has never acted poorly, never just gone off, never hurt anyone and unless I am not threatened with my life never will.
This is another feel good bill intruding on personal liberty. There are also false dv reports. How can a woman protect herself from a perpetrator with all the new laws being proposed? Certainly a piece of paper is not going to work, or a call to a rural police faction, or any feel good form or bill. A person who’s mission is to hurt or kill anyone is not going to be stopped by a lawmaker saying it is so.
You talk about women’s and men’s equality and rights, the simple action of being able to protect yourself from harm should not be dictated by others, especially those who are clueless about the real world.
Pretending you can rely on someone else to come to your aid is not only unrealistic it is stupid.
We are not weak wanting to rely on someone else to dictate our protection. Maybe Ms Grad they should call you.

Jason Pare
Jason Pare

Devil’s Advocate…..so this law passes, someone who is a threat loses their weapons. If that person is convinced they are going to go off the deep end and shoot someone, they are now more irritated. What is to stop someone intent on killing another from robbing their neighbor, their hunting buddies, or a gun store. I’m sure a guy about to kill someone and go to jail for life is not worried about picking up a charge for breaking and entering. Now what?? This law, like all laws, is for law abiding members of society. That is why they are called criminals.

 

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