Loopholes give domestic abusers easy access to guns

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  Most women murdered in Memphis and Shelby County are killed by someone they're married to or have a relationship with.

In a majority of those homicides, the weapon used was a gun.

WREG Investigator Stephanie Scurlock found while it's against the law for known abusers to have firearms, loopholes still allow them to get their hands on guns.

"While I was sleep he came and started to beat me out of my sleep. I was beaten until I was unconscious. Until this day no doctors can tell me how long I was on the ground unconscious," said Marissa Jackson, a survivor.

Jackson shared her story of being tortured and kidnapped by her then boyfriend in hopes she can make a difference.

"I'm just grateful that he did not have a gun because I probably would not be sitting here talking to you," she said.

According to the Associated Press, in the past 9 years, Arkansas had 79 reported cases where a firearm was used in a domestic homicide.

Mississippi had 85.

The number in Tennessee is more than the other two states combined at 258.

Tennessee law forbids those convicted of domestic violence assault from possessing a gun.

It also stops those who have orders of protection against them from having weapons, but victim's advocates say there is a problem with enforcement.

"We have seen cases where the person can say well I've given the guns to my brother in law or my friend. Who's to prevent that person from going over to the friends house and getting access to those guns," said Olliette Murry-Drobot from the Family Safety Center.

Changing the way the law is enforced is a new joint effort between the Family Safety Center in Memphis and the Nashville Family Justice Center.

"There are some gaps in that process in terms of enforcement and it's not clear in terms of what agency or what the court should do to make sure that petitioner, there's no access to guns," said Murry-Drobot.

There's also what some people call the gun show loophole that lets abusers buy guns.

At gun shows. Federally licensed gun sellers must do background checks. Private sellers are not required to perform a check.

Evette Porter wants to do her part to help strengthen the laws.

"I think gun control is very important in eliminating domestic violence," said Porter.

Her best friend, Taffi Crawford was shot to death in 2010 by Memphis Firefighter Frank Graham, someone she dated.

He had a permit to legally carry a weapon even though he had a history of violence against women.

That prior arrest had come before the law changed.

"I think if we keep them out of their hands, then we'll have less fatalities," said Porter.

Advocates say the state made strides in protecting victims, but Tennessee lawmakers don't seem in a hurry to create more domestic violence laws.

They didn't address the loopholes this year and a plan to create a DV Registry died.

"If someone demonstrates a history of domestic violence, then I think in some parts. He's given up some of those rights," said Murry-Drobot.

Survivors say other gaps in the law also puts them at risk.

An order of protection can stop an abuser from possessing a weapon, but it doesn't last forever.

"You can't get another order of protection unless they do something else to you," Jackson said.

Jackson's abuser spent two months in jail.

She's glad she hasn't seen or heard from him since then.

However, for the sake of other women, she'd like Tennessee to strengthen its laws to keep him and other abusers from having easy access to guns.

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