Despite federal law, many domestic abusers keep their guns in Mississippi

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Phoenicia Ratliff, who was killed in 2020.

Last year, 23-year-old Phoenicia Ratliff of Canton was kidnapped and shot by her ex-boyfriend before he turned the gun on himself. Just a week earlier, he had been arrested on domestic violence and stalking charges.

Ratliff was one semester short of graduating from Jackson State University. She left behind a two-year-old little girl. 

“To know her was to love her,” her mother Suzanne Ratliff said. “She was always smiling — you never knew what was really going on with her because she smiled through everything.” 

Her tragic case illustrates the reality of a startling statistic: that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. And one national study on intimate partner homicides showed women are more likely to be murdered with a gun than all other means combined.  

In Mississippi, where gun laws don’t mirror the prohibitions placed on domestic violence offenders in federal law, the statistic sounds a loud alarm bell. 

Under federal law, anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime, whether a misdemeanor or felony, is not allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. The same goes for anyone with a domestic abuse protection order (a specific type of restraining order) against them. The law is commonly referred to as the Lautenberg Amendment.


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