Life just got a little bit worse for women in Texas -- and particularly for women in Dallas County. The Texas Council on Family Violence released a study on Tuesday that shows Dallas County has the highest number of female domestic violence deaths in the state. More telling, Dallas has the highest per capita rate of domestic violence homicides in the state, with Beaumont taking second place for the deplorable ranking.
"In addition to Dallas County, Tarrant County homicide rates doubled, and Collin County tripled," says Angela Hale, a spokesperson for the TCFV. "If you look at the metroplex as a whole, you have 38 out of 119 total deaths in the state. So it is a significant number."
Generally speaking, Harris County has taken the top spot in past years, most recently with 30 deaths in 2012. Now, Harris deaths have dropped to 20 in 2013, and Dallas County deaths have risen from 9 in 2012 to tie with Harris County for 20 deaths in 2013. Population-wise, says Hale, that puts Dallas in the top percentage spot for domestic violence homicides.
It's a demoralizing figure that Dallasites are eager to counteract. Judge Roberto Cañas is spearheading the local gun surrender initiative for domestic violence offenders. Under current federal law, those found guilty of domestic violence offenses must permanently surrender their guns. If offenders accept a plea bargain, state law says they are restricted from gun possession for five years.
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The TCFV reports that 58 percent of domestic violence homicide victims are killed by guns, and most of abusers had faced previous domestic violence indictments in which they would have been forced to surrender their guns. In the murder of Karen Cox Smith in 2013, Smith was shot by her husband despite the prohibition against his possessing a gun.
Gun surrender for domestic violence offenders has been a seldom and hard-to-enforce law that has since gained momentum in local courts. "Domestic violence crimes can escalate so quickly, especially if guns are in the house, says Cañas. "If we take guns out of the picture, you cut down on that in the future."
"It's hard to predict why this is, but we do know that there are tools that help," Hale says . "The number of deaths are historically between 100 and 150 in Texas, and three women are killed every day in America. So the numbers are pretty consistent."