DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A three-year-old program intended to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers in Dallas County has all but failed.
But a Dallas County criminal judge says she has an idea for a new approach.
“If you want these guns off the streets, sometimes you have to be creative,” says Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Shequitta Kelly.
Federal law states that people who have been convicted of family violence or anyone subject to a protective order cannot have a gun. The law, however, doesn’t specify who should make sure this happens.
The Dallas County Gun Surrender Program was launched in 2015. Under the program, whenever a judge issued a protective order or a defendant was convicted of family violence, a judge was supposed to order the abuser to turn in their guns to the sheriff’s office.
By now the county had expected to have collected nearly 3,000 guns. So far, only 116 guns have been confiscated.
Judge Kelly said the problem with the program is it relies on offenders telling the truth about whether they own guns.
Kelly said she believes the county will have more success in getting guns out of the hands of abusers by providing them with a financial incentive. Her proposed plan would allow judges reduce or eliminate fines and court fees in exchange for an offender’s gun.
The Dallas County judge plans to roll out her incentive program sometime next month.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who has been a strong public advocate of the gun surrender program, told CBS 11 News he is disappointed by the numbers. In February, Rawlings held a news conference where he called on judges to do a better job at enforcing the gun law.
Judge Kelly, along with other judges, said she was caught off-guard by the mayor’s comments.
“For the mayor to say that, it’s insulting and it’s disheartening,” Kelly said.
Rawlings, who still said he believes the current program can work, said he is open to new ideas.
“The key is not to point fingers here but to get everyone on the same side saying how do we build a system that men that hit women, choke women don’t have a chance to shoot women with their guns,” Rawlings said.
The recent murder of 36-year-old Jacquelyn Davis of Dallas illustrates the importance of finding ways to better enforce gun laws.
Pettis Gage, 47, was arrested in June for Davis’s murder. Investigators allege Gage shot Davis during an argument at a home in South Dallas.
Gage had been in trouble with the law before. He pleaded guilty to a family violence charge in 2014.
His guilty plea, by law, should have kept him from having a gun.
It’s unclear if a judge in 2014 asked Gage whether he owned any guns. His family violence conviction happened just months before the Dallas County Gun Surrender Program started.