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SC lawmaker wants tougher penalties for those convicted of domestic violence

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South Carolina ranks #1 in the number of women killed by a spouse or "significant other." A state representative is pushing for a bill to keep guns away from potential abusers, Fox Carolina reported March 1.

Bakari Sellers was only 22-years-old when elected to the 90th District in 2006, where he represents the Bamberg area. He's currently pushing a bill that will increase jail time for first time offenders convicted of criminal domestic violence.

South Carolina law currently has a 30 day jail sentence, which is usually reduced to the offender enrolling in a treatment program. The new bill proposes the jail time for first offense be increased to 180 days.

Since 67 to 69 percent of women murdered in South Carolina are killed with a handgun, Sellers also wants guns taken out of the hands of abusers. The new bill, if passed, would require convicted abusers to turn in their handguns, or to at least restrict ownership for convicted abusers.

Lynn Hawkins, executive director of Safe Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition in Spartanburg supports the new bill. In an interview with Fox Carolina, Hawkins stated

"Women are losing their lives due to domestic violence all across this state."

Domestic violence is a vicious cycle where the victim leaves the abuser, only to return until things go wrong again. Sometimes the victim is too afraid of the abuser to leave. Victims may carry false hope the abuser will see the abuse he or she is inflicting and change.

In reality, this rarely happens, and leads to a cycle where the victim will again leave, many times repeating this pattern. This on again off again lifestyle continues until the victim hits rock bottom, or is killed by the abuser.

Hawkins encourages those in abusive relationships to get help and to get out. Safe Homes has a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-5066.

The bill is expected to be discussed by a subcommittee sometime next week.

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