Some things are just common sense. It is easy to recognize that fact, but not always so simple to put it into action, and even more complicated to enact it as legislative policy.
So it was gratifying last week to see Gov. Terry McAuliffe sign a bill proposed by Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, that will target violent felons and help protect victims of domestic abuse.
House Bill 2064, which passed the General Assembly unanimously, closes a legal loophole that classified someone convicted of domestic violence as a first offender, even if that person had a previous conviction for a violent felony. The loophole: If the prior conviction did not involve a family member, then a domestic assault was considered a first offense because — technically — the law viewed domestic assault as a separate crime from assault or arson or other violent crimes.
This is nonsense, of course. Violence is violence, and an offender who would assault a stranger or an acquaintance is more likely to assault a family member. What sense does it make to give someone a lesser sentence on a domestic violence conviction because none of that person's previous victims had been family members?
Domestic violence is a serious issue that our society downplayed for too long. In recent years, we have seen momentum moving in a positive direction. But there are countless arcane laws on the books that are outdated and indefensible that still must be dealt with.
Del. Mullin, a longtime prosecutor in the area of juvenile and domestic relations, said when he entered politics that he hoped to use his background in the courtroom as a guideline to propose and enact legislation helping the most vulnerable members of our society. This bill is an example of that.
Now if a person with a history of violent felonies turns his or her wrath on a family member, the sentence will be harsher because that person is a repeat offender.
Again, common sense.
But good to see just the same. If common sense was always enough to get things accomplished, life would be much easier.
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