The calls over the police radio for domestic violence are some of the “most dreaded and dangerous calls that a responding officer can go to,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation assistant special agent in charge Brian Johnston.
“The number of people that this affects is not only the victim but everyone else involved,” Johnston said. “It’s just unimaginable the scope that it reaches on this.”
In Johnston’s work that is primarily in Northwest Georgia, about 25% of the GBI’s “responses to officer-involved shootings are the result of some type of domestic violence situation,” he said.
Johnston and others spoke Wednesday, Oct. 14, about firearms and domestic violence at a virtual town hall meeting, which was hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Janet Paulsen, a survivor of domestic violence, said she was trying to figure out an escape plan because she knew her husband was “going to make my life a living hell.”
“When I finally told him that I wanted a divorce, that’s when the threats started coming,” she said.
Paulsen was shot six times by her husband in Acworth in November 2015 before he turned the gun on himself, according to the Gateway Domestic Violence Center. Paulsen previously shared her story at the 2019 Domestic Violence Breakfast and Briefing.
The Department of Justice said Tuesday, Oct. 13, it had charged 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes in fiscal year 2020.
“The (No. 1) priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Attorney General William Barr in a news release. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens.”
U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said 336 of the 14,200 cases were brought by the Northern District of Georgia, which covers Hall County.
“Our office is committed to combating gun crimes by leveraging federal, state, local law enforcement and community partnerships to comprehensively target these offenses,” Pak said in a statement. “In the Northern District of Georgia, we are especially focused on efforts to address domestic violence offenses involving firearms, given the alarming increase in domestic violence since the pandemic began.”
According to the Department of Justice, it is a federal felony to have a firearm after a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as well as to have a firearm while “subject to a qualifying domestic violence restraining or protective order.” Both crimes carry a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.
According to the GBI, Georgia law enforcement responded to 44,900 family violence incidents in 2018.
“When abusers really feel that they are losing control, they may escalate their efforts to control their partner,” said Sharla Jackson of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia.