Last Sunday, Roscommon County, MI, deputies were dispatched to a Roscommon Township home around 3:30 a.m. There they found the bodies of Tirany Savage (35), her husband Bo Savage, her son Dayton Cowdrey (13), and her mother, Kim Lynette Ebright (58). According to autopsy reports, Tirany Savage, her son, and her mother died from gunshot wounds in a homicide. And Bo Savage killed himself by gunshot. It is not the first murder-suicide arising from a domestic dispute — and it will not be the last.
If only there were something that could have made it less likely.
Tirany tried. She asked for a personal protection order (PPO) on June 24 in Michigan’s 34th Circuit Court, claiming her husband had bought a gun, repeatedly threatened suicide, and refused to leave the family home in Houghton Lake. In her filing, she wrote,
“He has mental health issues (he quit taking his meds) & recently purchased a firearm & that is concerning to me. He keeps saying he is going to blow his brains out & I do not want my safety or my son's safety in jeopardy.”
The judge denied her request, even though police had responded to multiple calls at the couple’s home. Judge Troy Daniel wrote that Savage could request a restraining order in divorce court. She filed for divorce on July 7. Writing that,
“I filed for divorce today after dealing with my husband’s affair. He became verbally violent & keeps throwing his fist like he is going to hit me & calling me a c---, whore, piece of s--- & told me I will need a PPO because I have no idea what I just started.
I asked him to be civil for a divorce & asked him to leave house & he refuses. I left & have been getting text accusing me of being with other people & he has now been texting my friends threatening them because he thinks they told me to leave him.”
Two days later she and her family were murdered.
Michigan has no ‘red flag’ law. This would have allowed Tirany or the police to petition a court to have Bo's gun taken away.
This lack reflects America's cultural problem. Traditionally husbands have been given leeway in marriages. It was not until 1993 that Oklahoma and North Carolina became the last two states to make marital rape a crime.
As well, many American belong to religions that believe women should be subservient to their husbands or are their husbands’ property. And regardless of the law, she must submit to their husband's procreative’ desires.
Throughout the history of the Republic, women have been economic and political second-class citizens who gained the vote, the right to personal property, and access to credit after years of struggle. And even today, women are under-represented in corporate suites and Congress.
Added to this legal and cultural subjugation is America’s gun fetish. After any school massacre or domestic murder, conservative politicians reflexively defend gun owner’s rights even in the face of all common sense. Gun owners under 21 commit a disproportionate number of school massacres. A rational population would agree that keeping high-powered, semi-automatic rifles away from young men for three years is not a “gun grab” and is allowed by even the most conservative interpretation of the second amendment so far.
But America has a noisy irrational minority. And therefore, the gun owner is given the benefit of the doubt while his potential victim is ill-served by laws that discount the fears of the potential victim. And women die.
Legislatures should change the law in both philosophy and practice. In a domestic dispute, the law should give the alleged victim the benefit of the doubt. And red flag laws should become universal as the recent federal gun safety bill pushes for — although this minimalist legislation does not mandate them.
Gun owners stripped of their guns because of a red flag law have redress in the courts. They can petition to have their gun rights restored. A person killed by a gun has no opportunity to right their wrong.
This benefit of the doubt should extend to protection orders. If a person asks for a PPO against an abusive partner, the court should automatically grant it — especial if the abuser owns a gun. The recipient of a PPO can make their case to a judge. While, once again, an abused partner shot dead has no recourse.
When an intimate couple hurls accusations at each other the truth will take a beating. However, justice is best served if a gun owner is unfairly, but temporarily, stripped of their guns. Rather than keeping a potential victim in jeopardy of being murdered by a homicidal partner.