Senate Judiciary passes Martin’s criminal domestic violence bill

Proposal heads to full Senate for debate

COLUMBIA — Recognizing the need for immediate movement on the issue of domestic violence, the S.C. Senate Judiciary last week passed legislation that would get tougher on offenders, as well as restrict gun ownership for many of those convicted of criminal domestic violence.

S.3, sponsored by judiciary chairman Larry Martin and others, is the first major piece of domestic violence legislation in years. Among other provisions, the bill would increase the penalties and prohibit those who have committed criminal domestic violence from possessing a firearm for 10 years.

“We in state government have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in South Carolina, and tragically, that too often ends up being members of an abuser’s household,” Martin said. “South Carolina has been among the worst in the nation in domestic violence for far too long, and I’m hopeful the full Senate will address this bill quickly.”

Sen. Greg Hembree of North Myrtle Beach, an attorney and former 15th Circuit solicitor from 1999-2012, said he is encouraged by the bill.

“As a former solicitor, I’ve seen the tragedy of domestic violence more than I’d care to recall,” Hembree said. “When you look at those statistics, domestic violence deaths have too often involved firearms and repeat offenders. This is a common-sense way to make sure that offenders with a history of committing violence in the home are punished and have a lessened ability to commit violence in the future.”

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler of Gaffney said he was “incredibly proud” of the Judiciary members for moving quickly on the bill.

“This is a bill that has been a long time coming, and I’m hopeful that we can get it to the House quickly for consideration,” Peeler said.

The bill must be approved by the full Senate before it can be passed to the S.C. House of Representatives. If it passes there, S.C. governor Nikki Haley will get the final say before signing it into law.