After three years of lackluster results from the current program for getting guns out of the hands of those convicted of abuse in Dallas County, one Texas judge is looking to bolster results with a new proposal.
Federal and state laws prohibit certain domestic violence offenders from purchasing or possessing a firearm, but there is no standard practice for confiscation — and experts saythese laws are often poorly enforced by local jurisdictions.
In 2015, Dallas County earned praise for implementing what was called the most comprehensive program in the state for taking away and storing the guns of people convicted of domestic abuse. However, authorities haven't had the success they expected from the "Firearm Surrender Project," leading a criminal court judge to develop a plan aimed to incentivize more offenders to turn in their weapons.
What's the deal?
Under the Firearm Surrender Project, authorities expected to collect roughly 1,000 guns annually. But only 116 have been turned in over the past three years.
Judge Shequitta Kelly told KTVT-TV that the problem with the existing program is that it hinges on offenders being truthful about whether or not they are gun owners. KTVT reported that Dallas County's gun surrender program has "all but failed."
Kelly's solution is to implement a new proposal allowing judges to reduce fines and court fees for offenders who are willing to hand in their firearms, saying, "If you want these guns off the streets, sometimes you have to be creative."
Offering a financial incentive would encourage convicts to give up their guns in exchange for judicial leniency, according to Kelly.
Earlier this year, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings blamed judges for not doing enough to enforce the city's gun surrender program — urging voters to put pressure on officials.
"I do not want one of these domestic violence criminals to walk into a Dallas school or a Dallas church and commit a mass murder because we didn't do our job," he said in a news conference.
He later clarified, "The key is not to point fingers here but to get everyone on the same side, saying how do we build a system that men that hit women, choke women don't have a chance to shoot women with their guns."
Kelly's incentive program is set to begin in September, but the details have not yet been unveiled.
Mayor Rawlings isn't he first official to complain about the results of a local gun surrender program. Authorities in various jurisdictions across the U.S. have stepped up enforcement by adding layers of follow-up whenever a domestic abuser is issued a surrender order.
Gun rights advocates have argued that stripping Second Amendment rights from misdemeanor offenders is too harsh a punishment.