Domestic violence advocates push for gun violence prevention laws

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WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Domestic violence advocates are reacting to a murder-suicide that took place Friday morning in West Valley City.

Police say a man shot his ex-wife multiple times and then shot and killed her boyfriend. About five hours later the alleged perpetrator was found dead inside a shower of a home about three miles away from the incident, according to police.

According to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, Friday’s incident is the sixth domestic violence-related death in 2020.

“It’s just another terrible tragedy,” Jenn Oxborrow, Executive Director, of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, told ABC4 News.

Two children were in the home at the time of the shooting. Roxeanne Vainuku, a spokesperson for West Valley City Police, said they are the children of the suspect and the woman.

Oxborrow said witnessing domestic violence incidents can be a profound trauma and difficult for children to overcome.

“We have 80 children per year in Utah who witnessed the murder or attempted murder of their mother by her current or former intimate partner.”

ABC4 News has learned that the woman had a protective order against her ex-husband.

“There had been a very significant history of violence and abuse and risk if she was able to obtain a protective order, and he would have been restricted from having the firearm. He should have been,” Oxborrow explained. “People will say it’s just a piece of paper, but it helps us to coordinate our response to these high-risk situations. It also says that it’s not too easy to obtain one. These are granted in cases where risk is really, really high.”

From 2017-2019, Utah’s domestic violence fatality rates dropped, according to the Domestic Violence Coalition, but Oxborrow said there’s still more work to be done to try and help people before tragedies, as the one Friday morning, take place.

“The part that I worry about the most is the access to lethal means, especially firearms when tempers have flared and risk is high. When there’s obsessive controlling behavior, access to a firearm in those situations is like pouring fuel on a fire.”

The coalition is tracking a number of gun violence prevention laws during the 2020 Legislative Session.

“We’re not trying to take all the guns away. We’re just trying to make sure that people who are in crisis, people who are at the greatest risk are getting help, that we’re interrupting that risk,” Oxborrow explained.

Support for victims and survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence is available 24/7: 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or at udvc.org or SVSUtah.org. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, or in an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately.

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