A proposal in Georgia aims to bridge a gap between federal and state law that leaves domestic violence victims in danger. This hole allows domestic violence abusers, banned from having a gun, to keep them anyway.
But an 11Alive investigation shows that the state’s effort to fix this issue might need to go even a step further if it is going to truly protect those who need it most. Considering the current legislation has languished for more than a year in committee, that's unlikely to happen.
“It really hurt,” Tyrone Davis said, looking away. “It really hurt.”
Police said Tyrone’s daughter was shot and killed by her boyfriend Lennie Moss - right in front of their four kids.
She had been staying at her grandmother’s home but, after filing for a protective order and having the locks changed, she thought it would be safe to go home. She was killed three days later.
“I wish she could have just stayed here,” Tyrone said crying. “Yeah, I wish she would have stayed here.”
At least 72 people were killed in 2016 in a domestic dispute. More than half were killed by a gun. Tyisha Davis is one of them.
She is exactly the type of person new legislation aims to protect by requiring anyone served with a protective order to surrender or sell their gun to a licensed firearms dealer.
It’s a law designed to protect people like Davis’s daughter from people like Moss.
“There’s no denying that there is a problem with domestic violence in this country, but taking away people’s constitutional rights is not necessarily the best way to address that problem,” John Monroe said.
The attorney and gun rights advocate said the bill goes beyond federal law to include violence against anyone you’ve ever lived with such as an old college roommate. And the federal law says it’s illegal to possess a gun. It doesn’t say the gun must be sold or surrendered.
“It’s a crime to possess cocaine but nobody goes around to make sure you don’t have any cocaine,” Monroe said. “If you’re found possessing it, you get arrested.”
But do you get arrested? Thirteen of the accused shooters 11Alive studied were either convicted felons or already had some condition barring them from possessing a gun. They clearly still had one.
“I’m a second amendment kind of guy,” District Attorney Bill Doupe said.
In March, he will prosecute Moss for the murder of Tyisha. Doupe said he fully supports gun ownership, but he also knows the risk of death skyrockets in a domestic violence situation when there’s a gun lying around.
“I think that gap between … what we can do at the state level and what’s available at the federal level should be closed,” Doupe said.
Moss and Davis had a history of domestic violence. But she didn’t seek a protective order until she said Moss came to her grandmother’s house and choked her so hard blood started coming out of her eyes and nose.
“It happened right down there in that room,” the grandmother said. “Right down there in that den.”
Domestic violence advocates think many people don’t request a protective order because they don’t believe they will work. Of the 49 people shot and killed, only three had some kind of no-contact order from the court.
In Tyisha’s case, the judge decided to order Moss to surrender his gun. The sheriff’s department said it tried for a month to find him, but didn’t have any luck.
The family did call 911 when Moss showed up at their house just days before Tyisha was killed.
According to information obtained in an open records request, a deputy did respond but no action was taken. The sheriff’s office has yet to explain why.
Tyrone believes, on that day, law enforcement did have a chance to alter events and save his daughter. But he stands at her grave knowing the proposed law would not have helped. That’s because it would not have required Moss to surrender his gun until after his court hearing. That hearing was scheduled for Dec. 20. Police say he killed Tyisha instead that day.
If the law passed, there would be merit. Simply clarifying the law to allow police to enforce the federal ban would help provide consistency across the state and remove guns from some offenders who should not have them. The bill also removes guns from offenders convicted of misdemeanor family violence.
But five states require guns also to be temporarily surrendered when a domestic violence victim initially files for a protective order.
Shaleka Spoon was shot and killed just hours after she filed a protective order against her husband Christopher Jones, the man now accused of killing her.
In 2015, Janet Paulsen was shot six times by her estranged husband before they could return to court for a hearing on a permanent protective order. That same year, Eddie Mack Allison shot his wife in a CVS parking lot after he was served with a protective order.
It's anecdotal evidence to suggest the most dangerous time periods are when an offender is told he must stay away -- and a few weeks later when it is time for their hearing in court. But again, the current legislation wouldn't remove weapons until after that hearing.
Davis doesn't know the answer, but he knows something needs to be done. Standing at her grave, he can't hide his emotion.
“You’re going to always be a part of my heart, no matter what. I love you baby. I love you.”