On the morning of Aug. 6, 7-year-old Kayden Mancuso was found beaten to death in her father's house in Manayunk — he was lying dead in the next room. Less than two weeks after, on the morning of Aug. 17, 37-year-old Linda Rios-Neuby was found shot to death on the second floor of her Holmesburg home — her husband was lying dead on the first floor.
Kayden and Rios-Neuby were born three decades apart and lived more than 10 miles away from each other. One recently made it to the softball team with the big kids. The other was a loved public servant who spent the last two decades working in Philadelphia's City Hall and a mother.
They did have one thing in common — an abusive man in their lives.
Kayden's father had a long history of abuse. Rios-Neuby was separated from her husband. In June, police responded to a dispute between the two but made no arrests.
Twenty-one women were killed in domestic killings in Philadelphia this year alone — an increase from 14 at this point last year, according to Homicide Capt. Jack Ryan. This is a troubling trend, made even more troubling by the role that guns play in these deaths. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the majority of women killed by domestic abusers are killed with guns.
Which is not surprising for a country awash in guns.
That's why it's outrageous that a bill that would have required domestic abusers to give up their guns died in the state legislature.
Pennsylvania legislators were close to passing a bill in June that would require domestic abusers to give up their guns — there was bipartisan support for it. The original bill gave abusers who got a protection-from-abuse order filed against them 60 days to turn in their guns; later, it became 48 hours, then 24. The revised bill drew opposition from gun owners, and died.
This is a state in which lawmakers have preempted cities like Philadelphia from enacting their own gun laws – but refuse to take action themselves.
This bill wouldn't have necessarily saved Kayden or Rios-Neuby, but it could prevent the next tragedy. Multiple studies confirm that access to guns is a top predictor of whether domestic violence becomes lethal.
The public safety implications go beyond the home. As German Lopez of Vox notes, past violent behavior is a top risk factor for future violence. Indeed, many mass shooters were previously domestic abusers.
There is even more that the state can do. For example, according to the Policy Surveillance Program at Temple University, unlike three other states, Pennsylvania's fair housing law does not define victims of domestic violence as a protected class. Pennsylvania is also one of 23 states in which landlord tenant law doesn't allow victims of domestic violence to request a lock change or terminate their lease. State lawmakers should affirm these protections and ensure that no person's home becomes a trap in which an abuser can attack.
We should not have to wait for the deaths of a 7-year-old girl or a 37-year-old public servant to take actions that could save lives.
The city's Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 at (866) 723-3014. For a list of resources: https://www.phila.gov/posts/mayor/2017-08-09-resources-for-those-impacted-by-domestic-violence/