South Carolina's top prosecutor is calling for legislative action this year to combat domestic violence.
Attorney General Alan Wilson held a news conference Tuesday to urge lawmakers to pass tougher penalties against domestic abusers.
“This is actually something we need to address,” Wilson said, “and this is the year to do it.”
Wilson, Lt. Governor-elect Henry McMaster, and a host of others made it known Tuesday that they don't want lawmakers to stall on the criminal domestic violence bill.
"It's an honor to represent all 46 sheriffs in the state,” Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said. “With the elements in the law, it will be very important for us. It's going to help law enforcement. Get us the tools."
Lawmakers returned to Columbia on Tuesday to begin a new legislative year. Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin has proposed a bill that would prevent abusers from possessing a gun while under protective orders, and those convicted of domestic violence couldn't have a gun for a decade after their sentence is served.
Wilson has said he supports that idea in theory, but is still studying Martin's proposal.
“Here's the thing,” Wilson said. “Nobody thinks a violent offender needs a firearm. I haven't talked to those people, even those not in favor of the gun provision."
Many of the speakers at the rally say making the bill a law is just the first step. They say the state's culture towards domestic violence needs to change.
Attorney General Wilson says the gun ban, along with other parts of the bill, will be the focus once lawmakers move towards debating the bill. That's something Wilson hopes won't overshadow the bill.
"You beat your dog and get five years,” Wilson said. “You beat your wife you get 30 days. That does not adequately represent the values of South Carolinians."
Wilson's office has said that more than 36,000 people annually report a domestic violence incident to law enforcement agencies around South Carolina.
The proposed bill isn't on the Senate floor yet, but Senator Martin says he's pushing to move the bill through committee and get it to a vote as quickly as he can.
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