NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s not uncommon for domestic violence abusers to intimidate their victims with weapons. There are laws that prevent those who are convicted of the crime and those who currently have an order of protection against them from owning firearms.
But, there’s a loophole in Tennessee.
Tennessee is one of the only states that does not require proof that weapons have been handed over.
Domestic violence resulted in 90 deaths in 2020, according to figures released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The number isn’t surprising to General Sessions Judge Allegra Walker, who currently hears all of Davidson County’s domestic violence cases.
“Tennessee ranks #5 in the country of women who are killed by their intimate partners, and it’s crazy because Tennessee has remained in the top 10 for over 20 years,” Judge Walker says.
Tennessee is also one of the few states that still has very lax dispossession [of weapons] regulations.
“Currently, in Tennessee when you are convicted of a domestic violence offense, you have to sign an affidavit to say whether or not you own or do not own weapons.” Judge Walker continues, “And, if I say ‘yes, I do own weapons’, then you have within 48 hours to dispossess yourself.”
Walker says Tennessee is the only state that has a third party dispossession that does not require any proof for that dispossession.
“What I really want to tell you today, there are no checks and balances on that,” she says. “You’re under oath, and it’s a sworn affidavit, but that does not mean you’re telling me the truth, and it really doesn’t let me know if you’ve really turned those weapons over to let’s say Uncle Bob.”
While Judge Walker recognizes the lack of accountability, she says fixing the issue is out of her hands. “That’s something that the legislators are going to have to change within making those laws, I just really follow them.”
She adds within the court system they are working on adding compliance hearings. “Within the context of the compliance hearing, the defendant would have to come back to court saying this is what I did with this weapon. You’d also have that third party coming in, Uncle Bob, to say ‘hey, I’m Uncle Bob, and yes, I have possession of the shotgun.'”
Those hearings are one extra step, “I think, when we think about change and making people safer, that would be a good change,” that may help save a life.
Tennessee Statewide Domestic Violence Helpline: 800-356-6767.