‘Karina’s Bill’ a lifeline for domestic violence victims’ - Gun Violence Prevention Action Committee
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‘Karina’s Bill’ a lifeline for domestic violence victims’

By Kathleen Sances and Rebecca Darr Guest columnists

From the moment COVID-19 touched our shores, it has exacerbated many of our country’s systemic issues, such as racial discrimination and economic injustice. In the midst of shining a harsh light on these matters, COVID-19 has also resulted in what the United Nations refers to as the “shadow pandemic,” which is an alarming uptick in intimate-partner violence.

According to a report by the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, domestic violence cases increased by 25-33 percent worldwide at the height of the pandemic. Three years later, the United States continues to see an increase in this disturbing trend, including right here in Illinois.

As if domestic violence isn’t already deadly on its own, our nation’s unique epidemic of gun violence only makes this issue even more dangerous. A 2018 study found that, in the U.S., around 4.5 million women have been threatened with a gun and nearly one million women have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner.

Sadly, the likelihood of a woman being murdered is five times greater when her abuser has access to a gun. While not all victims may feel comfortable disclosing their true gender identity for a multitude of reasons, domestic violence impacts men, transgender individuals and gender-nonconforming members of our communities, as well.

Here in Illinois, the number of shootings and homicides linked to domestic violence has more than doubled since 2019. In 2022 alone, there were 106 domestic violence shooting incidents reported from 22 counties across the state.

The increase in domestic violence-related shootings is a clear indication for more comprehensive policies directly addressing this crisis.

What’s more, the risk of intimate-partner homicide is especially high when victims and survivors attempt to leave their abusive relationships or seek security by filing an order of protection with the courts.

This is exactly what happened on July 3, 2023, when Karina and her 15-year-old daughter, Daniela, were shot and killed by Karina’s husband. This heartbreaking event took place despite the fact that Karina had filed for an order of protection that should have saved her and her daughter’s lives. While Karina’s tragedy is heartbreaking, it unfortunately is not an isolated incident.

But this can change by the end of this year, thanks to a new bill currently being weighed in Springfield, that is named in honor of Karina. Karina’s Bill aims to clarify and strengthen Illinois’ Domestic Violence Act and Firearm Restraining Order Act by requiring a firearm to be removed when a domestic violence survivor is granted the firearm remedy in an order of protection. This measure would also add intimate partners to the list of petitioners in the Firearm Restraining Orders Act to create additional avenues of firearm relief.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and there is no better time for our lawmakers to show up for the victims and survivors of intimate partner violence by passing Karina’s Bill and strengthening the laws we already have on the books.

Victims and their children should not have to live in fear and uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring. When domestic violence survivors go to the courts for protection, it is our duty and our moral obligation to ensure that the legal system works for them and that they receive the care, safety and support they deserve.

With 82 percent of Americans in favor of gun restrictions specifically for those convicted of domestic violence, the time to act is now. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and allow more people to go unnoticed without the advocacy and help they need.

Let’s do this for Illinois, let’s do this for victims and let’s do this for Karina.

Kathleen Sances is the president and CEO of the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention PAC. Rebecca Darr is president and CEO of WINGS Program.