Saturday, February 24, 2018

Kari's Law closer to becoming U.S. statute

By Robin Y. Richardson
Feb. 7, 2018 at midnight

Kari Hunt Dunn

MARSHALL — A 911 access bill that has its origins in an East Texas murder is closer to becoming federal law.

The U.S. Senate approved Kari's Law this week, sending it to the U.S. House.

The bill is named in memory of Kari Hunt Dunn, 31, who was fatally stabbed in December 2013 by her estranged husband in a Marshall hotel room. The couple's oldest daughter, who was 9 at the time, tried to dial 911 four times during the struggle but was unsuccessful because she didn't realize she had to first dial an access number or an extra 9 to get an outside line.

As a result, Hunt Dunn's father, Hank Hunt, launched an online petition addressed to U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler and other members of Congress, pushing for a law to ensure any person needing emergency assistance at any hotel or motel can easily dial 911 and connect automatically to a dispatcher without obstacles or delays.

The bill would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require multiline telephone systems, common in hotels and offices, to have the ability to directly dial 911 without getting an outside line first.

"This has been a frustrating, lengthy process, but it is encouraging to see Kari's Law in the final stages before making its way to President (Donald) Trump's desk," Gohmert, sponsor of the bill, said Tuesday.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was an original co-sponsor of the bill.

"With this simple change," Cornyn said Tuesday, "we can help folks quickly reach the help they need in a crisis, saving seconds that could ultimately save lives."

The Texas Legislature passed a similar law that went into effect in 2016.

The bill that passed in the Senate on Tuesday includes an amendment with technical changes, one of which relates to altering the deadline for entities to get into compliance from five years to two years.

"(The bill) will need to go back to the House for passage before going to the president's desk," said Libby Hambleton, a spokeswoman with Cornyn's office.

Gohmert praised Hank Hunt for his diligence in advocating for the federal implementation of Kari's Law.

"This commonsense reform was made possible through the tireless work of countless individuals, and none more so than Hank Hunt," Gohmert said, mentioning Hunt's emotional testimonies before Congress.

"Although this legislation will not reverse the heartbreaking loss of Kari Rene Hunt, it will create a legacy for Kari that will safeguard others from this kind of trauma and ensure that no child or adult will ever again pick up the phone to call for help and get nothing."



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