Now, one of the things we have to do is keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. -- David KeeneLast week, I wrote about the NRA taking the side of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill, putting the lie to this gun enthusiast notion that we just need to keep guns away from criminals. The NRA works to stop us from confiscating the weapons of gun owners who have forfeited that right via felony crimes and the like.
So, when a domestic abuser threatens to put a gun in his ex-wife's mouth and pull the trigger, what should happen to his guns? Take them away, or leave those weapons in the hands of the abuser? And which side does the NRA choose to take? Well, that last one's rhetorical...it should be an easy guess.
Yesterday, the New York Times published an extensive article on the subject. Guns facilitate the deaths of women by their intimate partners, as the NYT points out, and evidential support for this is not particularly hard to find. And Congress took action back in the 90's, with gun bans that are still on the books, surprisingly; the Times reports that the NRA fought the 1994 law and lost, but did win out on a loophole for people under temporary orders of protection.
Congress, recognizing the unique and deadly role firearms play in domestic violence passed the Protective Order Gun Ban in 1994. The law prohibits gun possession by a person against whom there is a restraining or protective order for domestic violence. In 1996, Congress passed the Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Gun Ban, which prohibits anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or child abuse from purchasing or possessing a gun.Such a prohibition does not actually remove the guns from a domestic abuser's hands, however. They may not be able to buy more (except through straw purchases or private sale loopholes, perhaps) but the additional step of confiscation requires more legislation. Congress' laws from the 90's enacted the prohibition, but it's almost never enforced, leaving it up to individual states to pick up the slack. And here, the NRA is caught working at the state level to stop this from happening.
In statehouses across the country, though, the N.R.A. and other gun-rights groups have beaten back legislation mandating the surrender of firearms in domestic violence situations. They argue that gun ownership, as a fundamental constitutional right, should not be stripped away for anything less serious than a felony conviction — and certainly not, as an N.R.A. lobbyist in Washington State put it to legislators, for the “mere issuance of court orders.”
Or a woman in Virginia who won a full protective order after her husband attacked her and was charged with assault. He was still permitted to keep his gun, and he murdered her. Then he went to her parents' house, evidently to kill them too, but had to settle for just killing himself. The Times quotes Marty Ridout, a partner at the accounting firm where this lady worked.
“It astounds me,” Mr. Ridout said. “I cannot believe we have a society where a person has physically abused another person and been charged with assaulting her and that they don’t automatically take away his weapon.”But the NRA is relentless, ever willing to endanger our lives, and inflict suffering and death, for the sake of unfettered gun rights. The NYT documents attempts to pass new laws in Washington state, which failed; a recent victory over the the NRA in Colorado where not one Republican voted to require the surrender of firearms in protection order cases, and another failure to make change in Wisconsin. In this case, the goal was to require people subject to protection orders to list their guns and surrender them, and the NRA got it scuttled on 5th Amendment grounds.
The N.R.A. mobilized, calling the measure “a blatant violation of Americans’ Fifth Amendment rights” in an alert to its members. Jordan Austin, an N.R.A. lobbyist, expanded in his testimony on the bill before an Assembly committee: “Once a person has an injunction issued against him, he is already a prohibited person. He cannot, under the Fifth Amendment, be forced to disclose whether he is in possession of firearms, because that would be tantamount to forcing him to admit a crime.”This logic seems to leave no way for society to identify a threat like a domestic abuser and then actually neutralize the threat. At what point do these rights yield in the face of preserving life? Do the rights of abusive gun owners trump the lives of the people they threaten? Well, we have the NRA's answer.
I keep checking while I'm writing in case I'm beaten to the punch, but this time I missed it...Meteor Blades wrote about this a little earlier today, and it's being front-paged now. The NYT wrote a fine in-depth story; glad to see it will get some attention.