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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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136 Responses

  1. Mireille
    Mireille June 30, 2010 at 10:49 am |

    They don’t mind if convicted felons can’t vote when they’re out of prison, but don’t take away their guns! It only makes sense that the most important right in a democracy isn’t the right to vote, but the right to own a gun. I guess point a gun at a politician would be more compelling than withholding a vote. That’s democracy in action there!

  2. William
    William June 30, 2010 at 11:36 am |

    I’d like to point that the Gun Owners of America isn’t a major group when it comes to gun rights groups in the US. They’re on the extreme edge and they’re and organization that is going to oppose any law for any reason because they feel that any erosion of 2nd amendment rights is a stepping stone to a larger attack. Its a position basically analogous to a no-compromise pro-choice stance, but it is somewhat more rare.

  3. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka June 30, 2010 at 11:40 am |

    Hello everybody, long time lurker, first time poster and helpful lefty gun nerd here.

    This is definitely a bad development. Right now the NRA is in the middle of its own foot-shooting; apparently their membership is angry about their support of the “Disclose” bill (which they got a nice exemption from) and some info has leaked that they’re preventing their board members from getting involved with Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing. So at a time when the NRA is going to start hemorrhaging members, GOA is going to start appealing to the worst of them.

    They know exactly what they’re doing here. They’re playing towards the angry MRA types who think domestic violence laws are more evidence of the liberal feminist conspiracy to emasculate them all. In the process they’re also courting the gun owners who think corporations shouldn’t have to be open and honest about who they’re throwing tons of money at and the ones who think Elena Kagan is part of the Marxist Socialist Muslim plot to take all their guns. Sure, they might not become more powerful than the NRA, but they will be concentrating some of the worst elements of American gun culture in numbers large enough to start having an influence on government policy. So this might not be as stupid as it looks, but it still needs to be publicized.

    And a quick bit about the armor-piercing bullet thing; they’ve been banned since 1986 and their manufacture and ownership both require specific federal permission. The original legislation did not seek to ban handgun ammo specifically designed to defeat body armor but would have banned any ammo capable of defeating a police-issue vest. That’s nearly every single commercially available rifle caliber. And that’s as deep as I’ll go into that issue unless jill specifically asks for more info because I don’t want to derail the topic, just provide a little background on an unfortunately common myth.

  4. melancholia
    melancholia June 30, 2010 at 11:48 am |

    So really, gun lobby? This is your great Constitutional and civil rights issue? The rights of people who have been criminally convicted of violent crimes to own guns? (Here, I’ll take a minute to point out that we limit the rights of people with criminal convictions all the time; we limit their liberty, but we also impose a series of restrictions from blocking voting rights to taking away drivers’ licenses to monitoring by the state to restricting where they can live and travel. Not all of these restrictions are good, in my opinion, but at least some are justified. Point being, the ban on gun-buying is not an anomaly).

    I think this is the key of the whole thing. Obviously you cannot take away every right of somebody just because they have been convicted of X crime. But there are clearly reasonable restrictions on libery following a conviction, assuming due process is followed. Somebody paroled after a bank robbery conviction probably should’t be allowed guns, child molestors probably shouldn’t be allowed to be camp counselors or school teachers, etc. I happen to think it’s pretty reasonable to say it’s not unconstitutional for a state to deny domestic abusers the right to own guns – provided there is some reasonably strong relationship between the state’s definition of “abuse” and a propensity for violent acts in the future.

    There are fuzzy cases. I mean, lots of liberties guaranteed in the constitution can cause harm in the wrong hands. Should convicted cult leaders lose their first amendment rights to freedom of religion? Should newspapers convicted of libel lose free press? Should convicted drug dealers lose the right against unreasonable searches and seizures?

  5. Henry
    Henry June 30, 2010 at 11:50 am |

    @ Mireille – Nobody is suggesting letting convicted felons own guns. The reference was to misdemeanor charges.

    @Jill – First, not a big deal, but armor piercing rounds are a complete non issue. There’s really no such thing as AP pistol rounds, and any rifle round bigger than a little .22 could be considered “armor piercing” if the armor you’re referring to is body armor.

    Second, the problem is that you don’t actually have to hurt anyone to be charged with a domestic violence misdemeanor in a lot of places. A verbal fight where the cops show up can get it done in some cases. There is an argument to be made that it’s not fair to have a fundamental right abridged because you got into a shouting match with your significant other.

  6. Niki
    Niki June 30, 2010 at 11:50 am |

    I like your analogy between guns and cars. I mean, we make people go through a rigorous, months- (sometimes years-) long process to obtain a little piece of paper on it that says you’re allowed to drive. We make them wait until they’re 16 and tell them they can’t do it if they’ve had to much to drink or, in some places, if they are talking on a cell phone. We impose rules like seat-belt laws to make sure people are safe while they’re doing it and we have an entire culture built around safe practices; road signs, traffic lights, a well-established system of driving on a particular side of the road, even traffic updates on talk radio stations.

    And that’s all for a using car. A thing that could potentially cause damage but that isn’t designed to; a thing that is made to get people around, a completely non-dangerous purpose, but sometimes malfunctions and can be prone to human error; a thing that could be dangerous in the wrong hands, but in most people’s hands, thanks to this system we have in place, it’s a more or less safe thing, most of the time.

    And this is completely uncontroversial. As far as I know, there aren’t any campaigns to reduce or eliminate the legal driving age or the licensing system. And yet talk about something as basic as a background check or a waiting period if you want to buy a gun – a weapon of murder, a thing that can kill a person in an instant, and that is designed for that very purpose – and a whole community of people is outraged. It is senseless to me.

  7. Emily
    Emily June 30, 2010 at 11:56 am |

    Henry wrote:
    “Second, the problem is that you don’t actually have to hurt anyone to be charged with a domestic violence misdemeanor in a lot of places.”

    Read the quote again. The problem isn’t with folks who have been CHARGED with dv misdemeanors. It’s those who have been CONVICTED.

    Surely you can see the difference.

  8. Bob
    Bob June 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm |

    1. Misdemeanors are not the same thing as felonies, and do not constitute “beating the crap out of somebody.”

    2. If society thinks someone is a dangerous criminal, then society should lock that dangerous criminal up in prison.

  9. Marlene
    Marlene June 30, 2010 at 12:16 pm |

    While it seems ridiculous to fight for the right of dv convicts to own guns, I think it is the tip of another issue. It is clear from current situations and history that the state is fully capable of criminalizing large swaths of the population if it chooses to. The disproportionate jailing and subsequent Disenfranchisement of African American men is a great example.

    I’m a gun geek. I’m also a trans woman. While my primary interest in guns is not as weapons, I am well aware of the fact that the police can not be counted on to protect me and that they are as likely as not to be a threat to my safety.

    I’m not sure where to draw the line on this, but giving the state the power to disarm those it deems undesirable (and then declares criminals through prejudicial policing) makes me a little nervous. When that power is described in terms of dv offenders, even I am more sympathetic, but that’s not necessarily the real issue at play.

  10. cristy
    cristy June 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm |

    @Bob-most DV convictions are misdemeanors in many states, and do, in fact, involve beating the crap out of somebody. A third conviction for DV in Michigan (where I live) is a 93 day misdemeanor. This is for a person who has been CONVICTED twice before. If it were assault and battery, the jerk would get 5-15 years in prison, but because the victim was his/her partner, the sentence is much, much lower. I’ve known abusers get two years probation for strangling their partner to unconsciousness, for brandishing weapons, for hostage taking, for any number of violent acts that are prosecuted as misdemeanors because DV laws are weak, and consequences are minor and neither do much to protect victims. The purpose of this law that bans folks who have DV convictions from owning guns was to protect victims from very real danger. So, an abuser lost his right to own a gun? The person he was abusing lost waaaaaaaaaaaay more than that.

  11. Joan Kelly
    Joan Kelly June 30, 2010 at 12:41 pm |

    Dang, and here I was for a second thinking (just from the title of this post) that the NRA was trying to get new members by convincing women who’ve been beaten by their partners to buy guns for self defense purposes. Would’ve been something I could get behind, in case anyone’s wondering.

  12. Henry
    Henry June 30, 2010 at 12:45 pm |

    “Should the state not have the power to revoke someone’s drivers license if the person clearly abuses the privilege of driving by, say, driving drunk a bunch of times?”

    Guns and cars are not the same thing. Self defense is a fundamental human right. Operating heavy machinery is not.

    @cristy – your argument is an argument for modification of DV laws (which I completely agree with), not an argument for denying a constitutional right based on a very sketchy legal standard. The state has an interest in an ever expanding list of offenses that “reasonable people” will accept as a reason to restrict gun ownership.

  13. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka June 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    @Jill:
    We recognize that some people are more dangerous in certain situations than others

    This exactly. If someone has a self-control issue that involves using physical force against people, guns are a really bad idea for that person. Making it nigh-impossible for someone like that to own a firearm is not unreasonable at all. Except the GOA isn’t exactly trying to court reasonable people. I agree with William that they’re not a big group right now and they are on the fringe, but as mainstream right-wing gun culture continues to become more paranoid and angry they may decide (as some all ready have) that the NRA isn’t going far enough for them. Much as we see the GOP increasingly adopting the silliness of the tea partiers, we may start seeing 2nd Amendment groups going in the same direction.

  14. Abner
    Abner June 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm |

    18 USC 922 (d) (9): It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person – has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of
    domestic violence.

    And to remind folks: background checks are already in place when you buy a gun. If you fail the check, you don’t get one.

  15. Kyra
    Kyra June 30, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    Guns and cars are not the same thing. Self defense is a fundamental human right. Operating heavy machinery is not.

    Are you trying to argue that it’s impossible to defend yourself without a gun?

    You’re inserting a specific tool (guns) in place of a wide-ranging concept that can be achieved through a variety of means (self-defense), and arguing that that specific tool is the sum total definition of the concept, without which the concept cannot possibly be attained.

    You’re also ignoring that said tool’s defensive value lies in its offensive capabilities, and rejecting any concern that said offensive capabilities might be misused by the person you’ve given it to for self-defense.

    Keeping in mind the first half of the second amendment, I’m going to submit that criminals are not all that “well-regulated.” They have rejected regulation in the past, hence their criminal status, and especially in cases where re-offenses are statistically likely, I see no problem whatsoever with limiting them to more passive means of self-defense. They can maybe wear bulletproof vests and carry shields, and run away from danger.

    Incidentally, the general concerns about heavy machinery, specifically the potential safety risks to others due to misuse thereof, are just as applicable to guns as they are to heavy machinery.

  16. Lasciel
    Lasciel June 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm |

    @cristy-that never fails to make me sick. A domestic violence conviction should be the normal sentence for an assault but much, much HIGHER.

    Henry’s right too though. Sometimes all you have to do is have the neighbors call the cops because the walls are thin and a lot of shouting is going on, and someone gets booked for DV. The laws are just really shitty when it comes to domestic violence.

    I take issue with any law that targets what may be a one-time offender. They give the impression that a person is unredeemable, unreformable, whatever you call it, forever a dangerous, violent criminal and should be treated as such.

  17. Another Laurie
    Another Laurie June 30, 2010 at 1:17 pm |

    Henry, no one can be lawfully charged with DV for a “verbal fight” unless that fight involved a threat. DV misdemeanors generally involve some fairly serious physical force and/or intimidation – from a slap to shove to being punched in the face and given two black eyes, to being threatened, to having your property destroyed. In my state, DV felonies are distinguished from misdemeanors by the fact that either involve a deadly weapon or result in serious bodily injury. A punch in the nose and two black eyes doesn’t necessarily rise to that level but I still wouldn’t want the assailant to have access to guns.

  18. William
    William June 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm |

    Self-defense may be a fundamental human right, but gun ownership is not. There is a difference.

    But it is a constitutional right here in the US incorporated against the states by the 14th Amendment. It is in the same class as freedom of speech and religion. Thanks to Heller and McDonald that is now the law of the land, regardless of what kinds of racist historical revisionism used to be invoked, what people would like the 2nd Amendment to say, or what kinds of public safety balancing people are interested in. The terms of the debate have changed, just as they did with Brown, Lawrence, or Roe.

    But…to my fellow gun nuts who don’t seem to be regular commenters and seem to be getting pretty aggressive in someone else’s space without a strong grasp of whats really being discussed, try to take a step back. I’m pretty reflexively opposed to most gun control laws and I can see whats deeply problematic about limiting gun ownership for people with misdemeanor convictions, but in this case the reality on the ground is that the vast majority of people with misdemeanor DV convictions have already shown a propensity for violence and a lack of self control. They’re the kinds of people who shouldn’t have guns, the kinds of people who make those of us who are responsible with our weapons look bad, and most importantly they are the kinds of people who kill their partners because they cannot control themselves. Its not unreasonable to interpret the “convicted felons and the mentally ill” exception in Heller as including these people even if their convictions are misdemeanors.

    We’re winning the fight. Take a deep breath, think before you speak, and actually bother to look at the discussion that is being had. If we want to continue gaining ground we have to be reasonable, we have to convince people, we have to not be assholes in other people’s spaces, especially when those people could well end up being potential allies in the not-too-distant future.

  19. William
    William June 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm |

    Henry’s right too though. Sometimes all you have to do is have the neighbors call the cops because the walls are thin and a lot of shouting is going on, and someone gets booked for DV. The laws are just really shitty when it comes to domestic violence.

    I take issue with any law that targets what may be a one-time offender. They give the impression that a person is unredeemable, unreformable, whatever you call it, forever a dangerous, violent criminal and should be treated as such.

    But thats kind of an MRA myth. Sure, the cops might get called from a loud argument. I can even see someone getting booked. But for a DV conviction there has to be some kind of violence. It is far more common for a serious assault to be plead down to a misdemeanor than for an argument to be blown into a charge. It is also far more common for an abuser to continue abusing for a long time without the neighbors calling the police than for the cops to get called because of thin walls and loud voices.

  20. Rebecca
    Rebecca June 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm |

    Second, the problem is that you don’t actually have to hurt anyone to be charged with a domestic violence misdemeanor in a lot of places.

    Wow, tell that to the people who can’t get their partner charged even when they’ve been beaten up.

  21. Marlene
    Marlene June 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm |

    Jill, guns are different from other things. They are unique in their ability to make the weak strong. I think that quality changes the potential positive importance of gun ownership and the care with which restrictions on that right should be considered.

    That said, yes, if we are going to have a state at all, and that state is tasked with administering some form of “justice” then it certainly makes sense for the state to disarm evil assholes. The problem is setting limits on how the state may exercise that power.

    Take guns from dv perpetrators? Definitely! The issues behind how we empower the state do do that are more complicated. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but questioning the state’s power in this area is something I have a lot of sympathy for.

  22. Henry
    Henry June 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    “Are you trying to argue that it’s impossible to defend yourself without a gun?”

    In a great number of instances, yes, that is what I’m arguing. In any case, a firearm is the most effective and most accessible means of self defense, and has been for over 300 years. The distinction between self defense and gun ownership is meaningless in practical terms.

    “Henry, no one can be lawfully charged with DV for a “verbal fight” unless that fight involved a threat.”

    Accepting that as true for the sake of argument, what constitutes a threat? I’m not being disingenuous, I’m trying to illustrate the possibility of the letter of the law being exploited to define down what constitutes grounds to abridge gun rights.

  23. Danielle
    Danielle June 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm |

    Really people? God forbid someone who inflicted violence upon another doesn’t get to have a gun. Are victim’s lives just not worth it? Yeah, maybe he’ll be violent again, maybe using that gun. He only hit her once, right? Except this time he uses the gun. Oh, but of course she probably “made” him do it.

    If you think, for ANY reason that a person convicted of domestic violence should have a right to a gun, you don’t care about victims. A victims right to live free of harm trumps your right to beat her and own a gun.

    I’m saying this as a woman who may own a gun myself someday.

    @William: I hope you didn’t mean to compare no-compromise pro-choicers (I am proudly one) and no-compromise gun advocates. Maybe in the fact that they’re less of the movement, but not in what they do (one helps the other harms).

  24. Danielle
    Danielle June 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm |

    @Henry
    Threatening to kill the person. That’s a serious threat, one that is all too often carried out.

  25. Sarah
    Sarah June 30, 2010 at 2:50 pm |

    Wow, okay. There are people in this thread who don’t see yelling at a spouse loudly/regularly enough for a neighbor to CALL THE POLICE to be indicative of a problem with violence.

    Henry, how’s this for an answer for what constitutes a “threat” (Black’s 9th: “a communicated intent to inflict harm or loss on another or on another’s property, esp. one that might diminish a person’s freedom to act voluntarily or with lawful consent”).

    More to the point, it’s a “threat” when even men can recognize it as such, without having been raised as targets in a rape culture where the (usually) unspoken threat of violence against them is part of nearly every interaction they have with a member of the opposite sex. You do realize, I hope, that if you’re in a public place and a man yells to you that he’s going to pound your face in, chances are very good that it means something different to you than it would if you were a woman, in the same place, being yelled the same thing by the same man.

    This thread is almost ridiculous. Here we are, with some people actually saying on a feminist website that people convicted of domestic violence should be able to have guns, because maybe what they did just wasn’t that bad.

    “Post-feminist” my ass.

  26. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka June 30, 2010 at 3:15 pm |

    In a great number of instances, yes, that is what I’m arguing. In any case, a firearm is the most effective and most accessible means of self defense, and has been for over 300 years.

    I can’t agree with that. Firearms are one effective tool for self defense in a pretty wide spectrum of tools. They are not the final word on self defense and they are not the best choice in every situation and occasionally they’re completely impractical. They are entirely dependent on the idea that you can unholster or retrieve them, load them if they’re not all ready loaded and disengage the safety if it’s engaged before whatever threat you’re facing gets close enough to stop you. Someone’s trying to kick your door in? Yeah, the firearm can typically be readied before whoever it is manages to bust in. Someone physically tackles you, pushes you into a wall or gets an arm around your neck from behind? Now the firearm is much less effective and more dangerous to you, either from accidentally shooting yourself or your assailant gaining possession of it. Guns are not magic. We know how they work and they have limitations just like any other tool, with the main limitation being you have to know the threat is coming with enough time to ready the firearm. That is not something I’d be willing to stake my life or anyone else’s life on. They’re not the be-all end-all of self defense tools so it is not a meaningless distinction at all, especially since focusing on just that one tool ignores the very real and important drawbacks of that one tool.

  27. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka June 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm |

    *facepalm* Any chance a moderator can take pity on a tag-impaired poster and fix my italic tag between the words “before” and “whatever”?

  28. Lasciel
    Lasciel June 30, 2010 at 3:28 pm |

    @Jill- I wasn’t excluding conviction. From what I’ve seen, whether an abuser actually gets in trouble legally is so extremely subject due to class, race, personal community standing, etc.

    The police, judges, see what they want to see, and too often they see someone that ‘could never lay a hand on a woman’ even if that woman is saying otherwise, and has injuries to back it up.

    Now a Hispanic guy living in the trailer park… better keep his voice down.

  29. Waymond
    Waymond June 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm |

    Self-defense may be a fundamental human right, but gun ownership is not. There is a difference.

    No, there isn’t. For many, many people who are physically week or not able-bodied, firearms are the only reasonable way for them to defend themselves against someone who is physically larger or stronger. My grandfather, in the last years of his life, was still sharp, but could barely get around the house. He was too old to run, too weak to fight, and thanks to the cancer that took his vocal chords, he couldn’t call for help. For him, and many like him, a firearm was the only realistic way to protect himself.

    Despite what Hollywood may say, most ordinary folks are simply not going to “kung fu” their way out of a situation when faced with a larger, stronger attacker who is determined to do them harm.

  30. Emily S.
    Emily S. June 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm |

    So, there actually is a reason why anyone would need armor-piercing bullets, although it mostly applies to law enforcement and soldiers. Although one definition of “armor-piercing” is that it can pierce body armor, another definition is a bullet with an especially dense core (usually tungsten) that is capable of penetrating the engine block of a vehicle and stopping it. Such bullets were originally invented for the use of police officers making traffic stops in case the driver of a vehicle ran them down, but back when depleted uranium was allowed for cores, such bullets could even penetrate the engine block of a tank.

    As a female who is hunter and a future gun owner, and has studied forensic science and seen the end results of so many crimes, I’ve got to say that I’m in favor of laws restricting the sale of guns to people who’ve done something to indicate that they’re a danger to society, with or without firearms.

    @Henry: No, the distinction between guns and effective self-defense has not been practically meaningless for nearly 300 years. Until about 100 years ago, guns weren’t nearly as “effective” as you’d think, and today we have things like tasers which just as effectively incapacitate someone while you make your escape without being lethal.

  31. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm |

    He was too old to run, too weak to fight, and thanks to the cancer that took his vocal chords, he couldn’t call for help. For him, and many like him, a firearm was the only realistic way to protect himself.

    Well, unless your grandfather magically spent his time beating the shit out of his wife/girlfriend/etc and getting convicted of said beating in a court of law, he doesn’t have to worry about the no-guns-for-DV-perps law, now does he?

    People, no one is saying ban guns! Really! We’re saying “oh, not giving violent criminals access to guns seems reasonable” and the GOA is saying “OMFG all dudes need their guns at all times for all reasons no matter what! Who cares if he maybe punched some bitch in the face a couple times.” Which most people (some commenters on here excepted, apparently) think is the fucking douchey-ist thing they’ve heard all day.

  32. Waymond
    Waymond June 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm |

    Just because firearms may be best way to defend yourself does not mean that you have a right to them.

    Please read the comment again. My point was not that firearms are the best way for people to defend themselves (though I believe they are, in most every case), but that for a huge swath of the population, they are the only realistic way for them to do so when confronted with a physically superior attacker (or multiple attackers).

    To put it another way, gramps also had the right to travel. But the state could have restricted his ability to operate a car. However, he had plenty of other reasonable options to get from point A to point B. His human rights were thus not infringed.

    But when you remove the only real option somebody has to exercise a right, you have for all practical purposes denied them that right. It’s like the state saying newspapers are welcome to print anything they want, but then denying them the ability to buy ink and newsprint.

    If you have a right to reasonably defend yourself, then sure, you have a right to do that, and to use the tools at your legal disposal.

    When the state makes illegal the tools to “reasonably defend yourself”, then you no longer have the right, no matter what tools remain at your legal disposal. It’s a distinction without a difference.

  33. KJ
    KJ June 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm |

    A gun is not a simple way to defend yourself. If you have just taken the minimum handgun ownership course, you are likely not going to be able to effectively defend yourself. Also, you have a practice to be able to use the gun effectively. So, if you want to use a handgun to defend yourself, look to spend a good chunk of change- the money for a good handgun, the money for a couple of courses, time at the range, bullets and a gun safe. Not to mention the investment of time. In reality, a better way to defend yourself is a big dog (not cheap either, of course, but much cuter), a hands-on self defense class and being aware of your surroundings. That latter might be the most important.

    I have no problem with most people (those who haven’t been convicted of a crime) having the right to own a gun. I do think it is silly to think that a gun is the only, best way to protect oneself from harm. I like to shoot. But for self-defense, I’ll go with the dog and being aware of my surroundings.

  34. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers June 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm |

    No, there isn’t. For many, many people who are physically week or not able-bodied, firearms are the only reasonable way for them to defend themselves against someone who is physically larger or stronger.

    And if they are physically weak or not able-bodied, and aware that a gun is the only reasonable way for them to defend themselves against someone who is physically larger or stronger, maybe they should take greater care not to commit physical violence against their domestic partner.

    It’s possible, I suppose, that a guy who used to beat his wife got in a car accident and is now confined to a wheelchair, and if he is not allowed to have a gun because of his prior DV conviction, he has no reasonable way of defending himself against criminals. But, uh, maybe he shouldn’t have beaten his wife. And maybe giving him a gun now that he is in a wheelchair will give him a means of continuing to abuse his wife even though she’s physically more powerful than him now, by threatening to use the gun to shoot her, or her cats.

    Your grandfather is not the person who would be affected by “domestic abusers cannot have guns” laws, unless your grandfather is a domestic abuser. Law-abiding citizens who do not commit violence against their fellows do not generally get accused, let alone convicted, of domestic violence (and when falsely accused, are rarely convicted.)

    The state has a compelling interest in depriving people convicted of certain crimes, crimes that demonstrate a real and present danger they present to other citizens, of freedoms. Actually, the state has a compelling interest in depriving people of freedoms any time such freedom is considered highly likely to result in harm to others. Locking someone up would be unconstitutional, except that it’s permitted when the person is accused of a crime and awaiting trial, or has been convicted. Depriving someone of the right to drive is perfectly constitutional if they are considered unable to do it safely. My husband’s right to freedom of movement has been *significantly* infringed by the fact that the state of Maryland won’t give him a driver’s license… which it won’t do because he’s legally blind. He has done nothing whatsoever wrong, he has committed no crime, but the state has a compelling interest in keeping him from getting behind the wheel of a car even though in doing so they have vastly hampered his freedom of movement, because he can’t see well enough to do it safely. Are you telling me that people who beat their lovers or spouses deserve more consideration of their rights than my disabled husband does?

    You have the right to defend yourself, but you don’t have the right to have a tool that can be *very* easily used to kill for the purpose of defending yourself if you’ve demonstrated unprovoked violence toward others. (And by unprovoked, I mean that the others were not physically violent to you first.) It doesn’t matter how physically weak you are; if you are too dangerous to others to allow you to have a gun, you don’t deserve a gun. Period. If my disabled husband can’t get a driver’s license, why the hell should a disabled man who used to beat his wife have the right to a gun?

  35. Waymond
    Waymond June 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm |

    Funnily, I never mentioned anything about domestic violence or the Lautenberg Amendment. My original disagreement was with this statement:

    Self-defense may be a fundamental human right, but gun ownership is not. There is a difference.

    For reasons pointed out previously, I don’t believe this distinction can be made. I never said anything about beating up your partner, or criminal convictions.

  36. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm |

    Women are far more likely to be murdered by their intimate partners, if their partners are batterers and if there are guns in the home. Those murders are far more likely to be from gunshots than anything else. That is why the DV misdemeanor ban was passed in the first place. I know some of the posters here find it difficult to grasp, but we lowly bitches are human beings and have the right to goddamn well live. (And don’t start whinging about how we should just leave since very often, those women are murdered WHEN THEY DO LEAVE.)

    Women are far more likely to be killed by intimate partners than by strangers–guns in the house increase that likelihood, and while gun deaths for men tends to be intra-gender, 95% of women firearm homicide victims were killed by men.

    You all talk about self-defense–yet it’s not YOU who’s being threatened and killed. It’s not YOU who are being assaulted and beaten (just to see the charge be a misdemeanor because the assailant was your spouse). It’s not YOU who has to worry about your ex making good on his threat to kill you because you left.

    How’s that view from privilege mountain?

  37. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 30, 2010 at 5:06 pm |

    Funnily, I never mentioned anything about domestic violence or the Lautenberg Amendment.

    Funnily, the OP is about how gun rights absolutists would like to hand-wave away the DV misdemeanor ban on gun ownership. Nice derail, though! What was I thinking that women should be regarded as human and stuff? What was I thinking that people who act violently and have a history of assaulting their family members should have the means to kill them?

    Of course! WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ.

  38. Rose
    Rose June 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm |

    Yes. Restricting gun access to people who’ve perpetrated unprovoked acts of violence in the past seems a wise move.

    With regard to the “guns as the best self-defence” argument, I think there’s a rather basic flaw in this, which involves the fact that you’d need to have a loaded gun lying about within easy reach in your house. This sounds like an easy way to get visitors and children killed.

  39. William
    William June 30, 2010 at 5:40 pm |

    I hope you didn’t mean to compare no-compromise pro-choicers (I am proudly one) and no-compromise gun advocates. Maybe in the fact that they’re less of the movement, but not in what they do (one helps the other harms).

    That really depends on your point of view. The forced-birth position is that abortion causes harm while banning it helps. It might not be a comfortable comparison, but the legal, rhetorical, and political contexts of the gun rights and pro-choice movements have a lot of similarities. In both cases you have two groups that are passionate about their respective positions. In both cases you have a pro-ban side which is poorly educated about the realities of the things they seek to legislate away. In both cases outright bans have been tried in the past, failed, and caused problematic, dangerous, and unregulated illicit markets. In both cases one side essentially calls the other side murders. In both cases the side calling for restrictions has a history of being disingenuous and manipulative, finding ways to sneak their restrictions in by any means necessary.

    But perhaps the most striking similarity is that in both cases the side which seeks to ban or restrict something is reflexively reacting to a threat to their power. Abortion, when you get down to the ugly center, is about controlling women’s sexuality and defining the options they have available. The forced-birth advocates don’t really care about the “babies” they scream about, they care about putting women in their place. Gun control, historically, is about race and class. Thats the elephant in the room that virtually no one wants to talk about.

    Take Chicago, the city that caused this most recent flare up. Daley is a racist. He comes from a long line of racists. He helped his son dodge prosecution for a brutal hate crime, he spent most of his life in a part of the city where people of color know not to go because there are still random killings every couple of years, a part of the city his father kept white by literally building the city’s infrastructure in such a manner as to separate white neighborhoods from black ones and make movement very difficult (especially for people who didn’t have the resources to drive). He has been implicated in a scheme to use a minority-owned-business program to funnel money to his Syndicate friends (the guys who use bats to keep Bridgeport white). City resources are obviously and clearly distributed in such a manner as to keep the white people happy and the black people desperate. A police commander Daley worked closely with, and has aggressively defended, just went to jail for torturing confessions out of people.

    In the midst of all this we have hundreds of shootings per year due not to random violence but to an out of control gang problem that the Chicago Police have done little to fight. It doesn’t get reported, but Chicago is still a segregated city, more segregated than even most of the deep south. Thats especially true once you move outside of the wealthy yuppie neighborhoods of the near north side. You hear about the hundreds of shootings a year in Chicago, but no one really points out that they’re in the black neighborhoods. No one points out that Daley and his machine benefit from these neighborhoods being warzones. No one points out that, on the rare occasions they even bother to show up, the police treat the citizens as if they were all criminals. No one points out that in a lot of neighborhoods in Chicago you’re on your own. Yet those are the exact people, the poor black people who have been hemmed in by gentrification, infrastructure, corruption, and racist resource management, who are being targeted by gun control. If you look at the new gun control measures he’s proposing they basically amount to a list of ways to keep poor people (and people of color are both disproportionately poor and disproportionately targeted by police and the courts for harsh treatment) from having guns. A list of ways to make it more expensive to get a gun, more time consuming to get to a place where you can train with it, more difficult to keep it registered, and guaranteed to force regular contact with a police force that has a history of abusing huge segments of the city’s population.

    /rant

  40. Danielle
    Danielle June 30, 2010 at 6:15 pm |

    Yeah but that’s not what I meant. There are appropriate restrictions on guns. Like not letting DV offenders have them, background checks. For me, there aren’t any appropriate restrictions that should be placed on abortion. Banning types of abortion procedures, or limiting who can access them has NEVER helped anyone. But banning certain people from accessing guns? Not harmful.

  41. April
    April June 30, 2010 at 6:36 pm |

    So Henry, a man is convicted of domestic violence, and maybe he even spend like, 30 days in jail. Maybe he spends several years in prison. Maybe he doesn’t even do time, and is just on probation or something. When he’s done, he buys a gun, goes home and shoots his partner, killing her.

    Do you really believe that his “right” to own a gun trumps that of her right to live? You’re yapping about physically weak people needing guns to defend themselves because it’s a more effective tool; what about the victim of domestic violence?

  42. SW
    SW June 30, 2010 at 7:03 pm |

    As an Australian, this whole discussion is extremely strange.

  43. Henry
    Henry June 30, 2010 at 7:23 pm |

    @April – Somehow this thread turned into me thinking it’s awesome for guys who beat up their wives or girlfriends to have guns, and that’s not what I was trying to say at all. My point was that there has to be a clear legal standard for denying someone a fundamental right. That line used to be a violent felony conviction; now that line has been moved down to misdemeanors, but only for domestic violence. There is a whole avenue that this opens for abuse of domestic violence law, because not every case is the same, and there is a lot of leeway about what can be considered domestic violence if the state has an interest in using the law to curtail gun ownership.

    I’ll give an example of the kind of thing I mean: I live in Pennsylvania, which is a shall issue state regarding permits to carry a weapon. PA goes a step further than a DV conviction, saying that any restraining order ever is a prohibiting factor for being issued a permit. But the standards for being granted a restraining order are completely up to the judge who issues it. So you can have someone who’s done nothing wrong having his or her rights infringed due to some nebulous legal standard.

    Basically I would say that any offense serious enough to deny someone gun ownership should be a felony, and only a felony should be sufficient.

  44. ginmar
    ginmar June 30, 2010 at 7:48 pm |

    William, @2, comparing owning a gun to being pro choice is misleading at best. The bodily autonomy of a woman is not up for grabs and should not be compared to owning an object.

    As far as the rest of it….It’s nice to see gun nuts being so blunt about how little they care about women, and how very much they care about woman abusers.

    Every loop hole available to abusers needs to be closed, because there’s always gun shows where MRA literature is available at many tables, detailing how poor oppressed menz can get away with not paying child support, get revenge, etc., etc.,

  45. Jenn
    Jenn June 30, 2010 at 7:58 pm |

    DERAIL TO FAIL!!!

    Wow, look how fast the NRA-defenders piled on to take offense to one part of a comment rather than the entirety of the article. For those without a smidgen of a clue, using someone else’s space to harp on a point that has little to nothing to do with the larger point of an article means you’re a troll.

    Oh, and I feel that anyone who thinks that people convicted of violent crimes, especially domestic crimes, needs to still have access to a firearm is a lunatic with absolutely no clue how domestic violence turns deadly. When you start valuing the “rights” of criminals (that aren’t really absolute rights, according to a thorough and judicial reading of the Constitution) over the lives and safety of domestic violence victims, you’re a deplorable human being.

    All this back-and-forth over stupid points that don’t really relate back to the bigger picture gives me the impression that people are really defensive about their guns. Hell, they seem more concerned about guns then they do about the victims of violence.

    That’s not a cool priority to have. This thread is not about how awesome guns are, it’s about how asinine this proposition is to retain the access of violent criminals to deadly weapons.

  46. eilish
    eilish June 30, 2010 at 8:29 pm |

    Thanks Henry, for your support of the idea that domestic violence needs to be upgraded to a felony. We will give you full credit for the idea when the other MRA’s show up and get cranky about it.

    Like SW, I find the notion of ‘gun ownership is an inalienable right of the citizen’ very strange. I can’t help wonder if this law might help lower the number of murders in Chicago.

  47. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 30, 2010 at 9:34 pm |

    Basically I would say that any offense serious enough to deny someone gun ownership should be a felony, and only a felony should be sufficient.

    Except that crimes that would get you 10-15 years–basically, assault and battery–are often lowered to a misdemeanor when it’s DV. As has been pointed out on this very thread. As has been the staticstics (you know, dead women–who aren’t actually fucking human or deserve the right to live, so really, what am I saying) that led to the misdemeanor ban. So you’re coming accross as thinking that it’s fine and dandy for batterers to have guns because frankly, you’re hand-waving away the very real experiences MANY WOMEN HAVE HAD and the violence that MANY WOMEN have encountered.

    Gun ownership, as a right, is pretty damn debatable. My right to fucking live, is non-negotiable.

    Yes, I think DV should be up to a felony. It’s not. And it’s not as if the conviction rate is high, urban legends and scare stories notwithstanding.

    Jesus H. Christ. The privilege. Is. Fucking. Breathtaking.

  48. JM
    JM June 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm |

    Would like to reiterate SW’s point that as an Australian, this argument seems totally bizarre. The only legal reasons to own a gun here are (as far as I understand) for hunting and pest control. You cannot own a gun purely for purposes of self defense. Guns in an urban environment are extremely rare.

    I’m not an expert on this, but I think this came out of the National Firearms Agreement of 1996 (post the Port Arthur massacre), though Australia has had comparatively strict gun laws for decades. There was a furore when the law was introduced but as far as I am aware, it’s almost completely died down. I cannot speak for all Australians, but I don’t think my inability to own a gun has in any way affected my basic human rights.

    Basically, my point is the same as SW’s. From an Australian perspective, this whole argument seems so strange.

  49. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig June 30, 2010 at 10:10 pm |

    Obviously, the founders intended that the only type of gun they knew should be available to all portions of society (except for slaves.) That’s right, I’m advocating muskets for all civilians. The NRA guys can’t say the liberals didn’t give them what they want.
    And as a side-effect, deaths from guns would go way way down, since I’ve heard muskets are a love-child to maintain and load.

  50. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka June 30, 2010 at 10:15 pm |

    Henry, Pennsylvania firearms law does not mention “restraining orders” as precluding a person from owning a firearm. What it does mention is the “Protection from Abuse Order”, which is pretty specifically directed towards cases of domestic violence (not “I’m arguing with my neighbor” or “I want one of my co-workers to quit hitting on me”) and must be issued by a judge. They also only last about three years but can be extended if the judge feels it is necessary. It is not nearly as ironclad as you seem to be making it out and it is definitely not something I see my right of self-defense trumping. I have other options besides my firearms and if it’s a choice between my firearms being a tiny little bit infringed and the protection of victims of domestic violence, I’m going with the latter. DV misdemeanors preclude one method of self defense, regardless of whether you think it is the best or only method of self defense. It does not prevent someone with a DV misdemeanor from defending themselves at all. It does prevent someone with a DV misdemeanor from being able to easily obtain a firearm which would definitely not be used to defend themselves.

    As Sheelzebub said, if these assaults weren’t so routinely reduced to misdemeanors, this wouldn’t be necessary. We don’t live in that world. We live in a world where a good chunk of law enforcement and the court system can still be counted on to blame the victim or minimize crimes against women. We need to change that first. Then we can worry about quibbling over the difference between misdemeanors and felonies.

  51. Mike Crichton
    Mike Crichton June 30, 2010 at 10:37 pm |

    Slightly off topic: Several times on feminist blogs, I’ve read the claim that many, even most, women who are convicted of domestic violence were in fact defending themselves from abuse. Has anyone done any actual research into this, for example tracking how many female offenders are later assaulted by their original “victim”?

  52. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm |

    So you can have someone who’s done nothing wrong having his or her rights infringed due to some nebulous legal standard.

    Henry, you seem really, really concerned about “innocent” men being accused of DV or abuse, and having restraining orders against them. It’s not that easy to have someone accidentally accuse you of a violent crime and have the whole court system accidentally enforce it. It’s not like bands of women go around trying to find random guys to accuse of DV just so they can take their precious phall uh, firearms away.

    So why so worried? You think it’s likely that someone wants to bring you up on charges? Get a restraining order? You been hanging out in the not-quite-prosecutable-abuse-but-the-women-around-me-want-me-gone gray area?

    Or are you just trolling, because your right to whine about your love of handguns trumps the right of women to discuss their lives and personal safety?

  53. Dominique
    Dominique June 30, 2010 at 11:35 pm |

    Okay. I know: all women who can do this should stock up on every weapon imaginable and shoot every asshole guy she knows dead, dead, dead.

    Then you’ll get gun control. In spades. Trust me.

  54. The Amazing Kim
    The Amazing Kim July 1, 2010 at 12:07 am |

    As an Australian, this whole discussion is extremely strange.

    This conversation is so alien I keep wanting to take it to my leader. Even the police in Britain don’t have guns.

  55. Henry
    Henry July 1, 2010 at 12:08 am |

    “So why so worried? You think it’s likely that someone wants to bring you up on charges? Get a restraining order? You been hanging out in the not-quite-prosecutable-abuse-but-the-women-around-me-want-me-gone gray area?”

    That took longer than I figured, this being the internet and all. Let the character assassination commence! Since you asked, I’m fine. Never even in so much as inappropriately loud argument. I was issued my permit with nary a fuss, and it’s renewal has never been in question. Although, since I apparently don’t care about victims of domestic violence I can see why you might assume otherwise. I like the scare quotes around “innocent”, by the way. Nice touch.

    Every bad law has a laudable goal attached to it. Every single one. From our ridiculous drug laws, along with mandatory minimum sentencing, death penalty laws, and so on. All of them are justified by pointing to the very real harm inflicted on innocent people that these laws are supposed to protect. And almost all of them are abused and end up hurting people who don’t deserve it. I understand what a huge problem domestic violence is, and the damage it does to countless people. But telling me that I’m a despicable prick and I don’t care about DV victims because I’m worried about the possibilities of corruption and abuse of this law is just like telling me that since I’m against our more draconian drug laws that I don’t care about the victims of drug violence. It’s not a fair argument.

    In any case, I didn’t intend to compete for the troll awards or whatever, but it sure turned out that way. So, sorry ’bout that. I’ll shut up now.

  56. Jeff Knox
    Jeff Knox July 1, 2010 at 12:58 am |

    Please forgive the intrusion. I am not a regular here, but I am an expert on the issue being discussed in this thread and I’d like to try to shed a little light if I may.
    I am a certifiable and unapologetic gun nut. I have several people who are very near and dear to me who have been victims of serious domestic violence and I myself have been a victim of Domestic Violence under the Lautenberg definition.
    The objections we have to the Lautenberg DV law are that it draws the bar too low, it was retroactive, and it is a lifetime ban.
    When the Gun Control Act of 1968 went into effect it made anyone who had been convicted of a felony crime punishable by more than one year in prison – or anyone who had been convicted of a state misdemeanor punishable by over 2 years in prison a “prohibited person” for firearms purposes. A prohibited person may not buy or possess a firearm or ammunition nor may a prohibited person employ someone to possess a firearm or ammunition. Technically Martha Stewart, as a prohibited person may not have a gun and she can not employ armed bodyguards to protect her. If she did, both she and the bodyguards would be committing a felony. Probably not a problem for Martha, but a rather frequent dilemma for certain rappers.
    The Lautenberg Amendment added anyone ever convicted of a Domestic Violence misdemeanor and includes some very specific definitions of what constitutes a DVM. When I say the bar is too low, what I mean is that if it is ever justifiable to permanently revoke a fundamental right (the Supreme Court has declared the right to arms for personal self-defense a fundamental right) it could only be justified in cases of serious violent crime. Martha Stewart does not meet that standard and she should not be a prohibited person. My fiance’ who slapped my face in a restaurant over a misunderstanding does not meet that standard. The Army Sergeant who phoned home from the war zone only to have his wife’s lover answer the phone and taunt him about what he was doing with his wife – they turned the recorder on once he got good and mad, just in time to catch him threatening to blow the guy’s head off from three thousand miles away – does not meet the standard.
    The bar being too low is then exacerbated by the fact that the prohibition was retroactive so the guy’s granddad who has been hunting and shooting and protecting his dearly beloved wife of 60 years might have awakened one day in 1996 to find that he was a prohibited person because in the early days of his marriage he had lost his temper and punched a hole in a wall during an argument with his beloved and had to pay a $25 fine and go to counseling. Even though nothing like that ever happened again, he loses his gun rights forever. There were tens of thousands of people who permanently lost their rights overnight with the passage of this act – many of them women and many of them soldiers and police who immediately lost their jobs and their careers because they could no longer be around firearms.
    The only way a person so disenfranchised can regain their rights is to prove that they were not properly represented when they were convicted (most plead guilty and paid a fine) or have their conviction expunged or pardoned.
    There have been cases of police showing up to find the man with a slap mark on his face and the woman goes to jail. He could be a ruthless killer, but she loses her right to have a gun with which to protect herself because he had a mark on his face.
    On top of all of that, the fact is; Gun Control Laws Don’t Work. No matter how sensible and “common sense” a law seems it is only a good law if it does more good than harm. This law does not meet that standard. There was no reduction in murder or assault rates on spouses after Lautenberg passed but there were thousands of lives torn apart. When someone decides to commit murder they are not deterred by a rule that says they’re not supposed to have a gun. Sure a gun is more likely to be used in a murder if one is handy to the murderer, but the research shows that not having a gun handy does not significantly reduce the likelihood of a murder being committed – just with a different weapon. Research also shows that the majority of murderers, including spouse murderers, have extensive criminal records and are prohibited persons for multiple reasons – still they find a way to get a gun or other weapon and commit murder.
    We do not support “guns for wife beaters.” We support incarceration for wife beaters. If the crime is foul enough to justify the loss of gun rights forever then it is foul enough to be classified as a felony and carry some serious time. If it is not a felony deserving of jail time then it is not a crime that justifies revocation of rights.
    We absolutely support the idea of a path to restoration of all civil rights for non-violent offenders and first-time misdemeanants and we absolutely support punishment fitting the crime for violent criminals – including domestic violence.
    Firearms are used by private citizens five times more frequently to stop criminals than to commit crimes. In most of those cases no shots were ever fired. Denying an abuser the right to arms is unlikely to deter him, but denying his victim the right to arms can be a death sentence.
    As I say, I have people who are very dear to me who were victims of abuse and there are some men out there who should be thankful that our paths never crossed. I take the problem of domestic violence very seriously just as I take the right to arms seriously. Blindly proclaiming that it’s the guns fault and throwing broad-brush solutions that destroy peoples’ lives – men and women – at a fine-line problem helps no one.
    Finally, gun control laws like the Lautenberg law are harmful distractions that take energy and resources away from real solutions like sentencing reform and early childhood education.
    I hope this clarifies the gun nut position.
    Thank you for letting me participate in your discussion.
    Jeff Knox, The Firearms Coalition

  57. Flowers
    Flowers July 1, 2010 at 1:23 am |

    Re the argument for background checks for guns and the idea that one must be licensed to drive, so why not for guns?:

    I am bipolar. I have to disclose this when I apply for a driver’s license. Yes. A driver’s license. I’m also a lawyer, and I have to get a note from a doctor (or in some states, every doctor I’ve ever seen) stating that I won’t harm my clients in order to sit for the bar in almost every single state or to represent clients before most government agencies. I think this is incredibly disheartening and only serves the purpose of increasing stigma.

    I fear that when people say “background checks” are necessary before I can have a gun that they mean that someone like me (with a mental health issue) should not be allowed to own one. Not everyone means this, but most people do. I am tired of having to disclose my mental health status to the state in order to drive, in order to do my job, and for just about anything else. I really don’t need society telling me that I can’t own a gun without a damn doctor’s note.

    I realize that no one brings up the disability rights aspect of gun ownership, but I think it’s important to clearly define what “background checks” mean because every time some person who may or may not have a mental health issue shoots a bunch of white people, everyone starts talking about “background checks” which is just code for “don’t let the crazies have any rights!”

    If we limit “background checks” to “convictions for physical violence” then hell yeah…. but I think that we need to ensure that stigma against those of us with mental health issues doesn’t become part of the equation. But I think that when we don’t make that clear, then many people may be including a screening for mental disorders in the term “background checks.”

    Basically, getting a driver’s license is hard enough for me because I am bipolar….. I actually like the fact that I can own a gun easier than I can get a license. It’s not always a bad thing.

  58. ginmar
    ginmar July 1, 2010 at 3:43 am |

    Chaotic nipple–crichton, I know you read my blog for years before getting booted as an anti-feminist troll. I know I’ve cited this shit over and over again. Fucking. Go. Look. It. Up.

  59. Kitty
    Kitty July 1, 2010 at 6:17 am |

    @Flowers

    Don’t you think some control would be useful to prevent people like you from harming THEMSELVES, also?

    Can I ask what exactly you do with the gun? You just like having it around?

    I mean, in the UK we have fewer guns, but probably more knife crime. Difference is, the chances of surviving a knife attack are higher, the damage is lesser, and in terms of mass-killings it is less likely to happen, as actually stabbing several victims would take longer.

    In DV terms the important point probably being that there is more chance the victim will survive.

  60. momo
    momo July 1, 2010 at 6:31 am |

    Another perplexed non-USian. I must say that I feel a LOT safer in a society where guns are scarce than in one where there are a lot of them about.

    Or are you just trolling, because your right to whine about your love of handguns trumps the right of women to discuss their lives and personal safety?

    Dingdingdingding!
    I stopped reading those swathes of text because boring dude is boring. And derailing.

  61. Samantha b.
    Samantha b. July 1, 2010 at 7:25 am |

    Flowers, that’s pretty much a derail since this post is about DV offenders and not at all about the larger nature of background checks. As a fellow bipolar, I would also ask why on earth it’s a cherished privilege to get a gun more easily than it is to get a driver’s license? Gun ownership just isn’t a vital societal necessity the way a driver’s license is. But it’s an irrelevancy to this post regardless.

    And, @Jenn, your use of the word “lunatic” is really very ableist. I don’t see that mental illness and an inability to grasp the nature of domestic violence are remotely correlated; you’ve just thrown in the word as a cheap and stigmatizing insult without having it make much sense.

  62. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery July 1, 2010 at 9:21 am |

    The bottom line is, regardless of how unsympathetic we are to men who’ve been convicted of a D.V. charge, removing convict’s rights permanently, even after they’ve completed whatever punishment the state has mandated, is wrong. It creates an underclass that has fewer rights than everybody else, and that has no way of recovering those rights. It falls under the same category as exiling sex offenders, or forbidding convicted felons from voting.

    As someone on the thread already said — if they’re demonstrably dangerous, keep them confined.

  63. KJ
    KJ July 1, 2010 at 10:16 am |

    Other Australians, I think this illuminates a cultural divided between the US and many other countries. In the US, a gun is pretty commonplace, particularly for those who grew up in the south, southwest or northwest. I grew up with guns in the house. I shot my first gun at five, in the backyard. My family owns about five guns. Some a heirlooms. To be denied the right to have a gun if we decide we want one is seen as unconstitutional. To see major restrictions placed on gun ownership seems terrible to most Americans. When your country was founded on a revolution and that revolution was fought by militiamen who carried their own guns to battle, the historical view of gun-owning as a right is different. If you include the cowboy/settler mythos, you can start to understand why many US citizens are married to the idea of gun ownership as a fundamental right.

  64. Waymond
    Waymond July 1, 2010 at 10:49 am |

    Of course! WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ.

    I don’t recall mentioning gender at all.

    I also don’t believe it’s a “derail” do discuss the nature and scope of the right to armed self defense. The OP deals with the wisdom of curtailing rights (or not) when someone has committed some infraction against society. Unless one adopts the decidedly simplistic position that any infraction, regardless of seriousness, justifies the total denial of any right, it’s a worthy debate to determine how these rights exist on a continuum of importance, just as the related crimes exist on a continuum of seriousness.

    Some believe that the right to armed self defense is fundamental to being human, and that any arresting of that right should be very carefully considered. That is, anything used as a justification for denial should be a very serious crime of violence. Others obviously do not see the right as very important (or non-existent) and thus set a much lower relative standard for it’s denial. This is a worthy discussion to have, and relates directly to the OP.

    Personally, I think that felony convictions for crimes that result in serious physical injury can justify restrictions of even important rights. I’m much more iffy on misdemeanors that result in no serious injury. As it relates to domestic violence, many states have statutorily defined both misdemeanor and felony brands, differentiated solely on the class of assault committed.

  65. Flowers
    Flowers July 1, 2010 at 11:06 am |

    @Kitty — I don’t need to be protected from myself. That’s the kind of thinking that keeps me from being treated as a full human being. If I want to kill myself, there are a lot easier ways than a gun. Believe me, I’ve owned a gun all my life, and my two suicide attempts have been by other means. I’ve never even thought about killing myself with a gun. Do you want to come into my house and get rid of all my knives? Do you want to keep my medicine locked up and dole it out to me one pill at a time so that I don’t OD? It’s the idea of “we know better what’s good for you than you do!” that has the state treating me like a second-class citizen.

    @Samantha B. No, this was not a derail. Bringing up the unacknowledged privilege of people who have no problem getting a driver’s license and use the “guns should be harder to get than driver’s licenses” argument is not a derail. If it is, then I’m not sorry, because people who don’t have bipolar disorder don’t know how hard it is to get a driver’s license. And, whatever you think, owning a gun in this country is a right. The Supreme Court says so. It was too long ago that the Supreme Court said that the state could keep people like me from having kids. They reversed that, but I am still extremely cautious when people want to take away my rights because I am bipolar. Not because of anything else, but because I am bipolar. Trying to show people that “background checks” is a euphemism for “denying mentally ill people their rights” is something I am passionate about, and bringing it up on a thread that has heavily endorsed background checks before exercising a right is totally justified.

  66. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers July 1, 2010 at 11:15 am |

    The bottom line is, regardless of how unsympathetic we are to men who’ve been convicted of a D.V. charge, removing convict’s rights permanently, even after they’ve completed whatever punishment the state has mandated, is wrong.

    The bottom line is, my legally blind husband has never harmed anyone while behind the wheel of a car, yet the state considers itself to have a compelling interest in not letting him drive a car, because of the potential risk he presents to others.

    How can you possibly argue that the right to *drive*, which is vastly more important in everyday life in these United States than the right to carry a gun, and has had a profound impact on where my husband can live and what jobs he can take, is less important than the right to carry a gun? Or that a man who has committed no crime at all can be compelled by the state to give up his driving privileges because he can’t drive without presenting a threat to others, but that a man who has COMMITTED A VIOLENT CRIME AGAINST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING deserves the right to carry a GUN?

    Let’s be clear. A gun is not the only way to defend yourself, just as driving isn’t the only way to transport yourself. It’s just one of the most efficient ways. But it’s also one of the most dangerous to other people. The state has a compelling interest in keeping people from being murdered. People who have been convicted of domestic violence have much, much higher rates than normal of killing people with guns. If there were such a thing as murder insurance, that we were all required to take out in case we murder somebody, the premiums for people convicted of DV would be through the roof.

    Lock them up forever? Well, maybe. Good arguments have been made for that. But in the case of DV, it’s really, really problematic to do so. In fact, in the case of *any* crime that is largely committed against women, it’s really problematic to do so (which includes sex crimes), for the following reasons:

    – people value men more highly than women (this includes women). So the higher a penalty a crime committed by a man against a woman carries, the less likely the man will be convicted, because no one wants to ruin his life just because he slapped around or raped some bitch.

    – women are disproportionately harmed by men they love (both rape and DV). So the higher the penalty a crime committed by a person the victim loves, the less likely she is to bring charges in the first place.

    – women are much more likely to be economically dependent on their assailant than men are, because of the aforementioned being harmed by those they love. So the more the penalty for a crime prevents a criminal from earning money, the more it penalizes his victim. (This is actually true for woman-on-man DV as well; married men are usually somewhat dependent on their wife’s income because they can’t keep their house without two incomes coming in, in today’s day and age. It’s not true for men and the people who usually attack men, because men have astronomically high rates of being assaulted by strangers, and even acquaintances who attack men are rarely acquaintances they are dependent on — only between 5-20% of men who are attacked are attacked by domestic partners — but it *is* true for the relatively few men who are attacked by domestic partners.)

    So if you lock rapists up for life, women won’t bring charges against rapists that they care about, like boyfriends and husbands, and women with children who are raped by ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends won’t bring charges even if they hate the guy because they need the child support he pays, and juries won’t convict rapists. And if you lock domestic abusers up for life, the same thing happens. However, if you let rapists run around in the population without tracking them, they’ll rape again. And if you let domestic abusers have guns, they’ll kill with them.

    So, you have a choice. You can deny a certain category of criminal any freedom, forever (including the freedom of self defense, because prisoners have no recourse, in prison, and can be freely beaten and/or raped by guards and other prisoners), but if you do, their rate of being charged or convicted will plummet. Or you can deny that category of criminal the very specific freedom that they are statistically likely to misuse, while allowing them other freedoms. And since our society is perfectly willing to deny *innocent* people a right as profound as the right to drive, in the United States, where public transportation outside of major metropolises is almost nonexistent, just because they are disabled and would thus be dangerous on the road, why should we *not* be willing to deny convicted criminals certain limited freedoms that specifically pertain to the crime they committed?

    I understand that there are serious problems with the implementation of sex crimes registers. For one thing, such registers mix together “consensual” sex crimes like prostitution or picking up a prostitute, and statutory rape where the age difference is say 4 years and the Romeo and Juliet provision of the state is 2, with violent crimes like rape and child molestation. I think they need to be *specifically* limited to rape and sexual assault, statutory rape committed by a person over the age of 21, and sexual abuse of a child… and that guys who were urinating in public who got picked up for “exposing themselves” should not qualify. But frankly, the rate of recidivism for rape and child molestation is really high and I don’t think it is an unfair infringement on the right of a convicted criminal to have to live with everyone knowing he is a dangerous predator for the rest of his life, since, well, he’s a dangerous predator and he will be for the rest of his life. And in a world where innocent people can be denied the right to drive, which is *much* more useful in most real world contexts than the right to a gun, because they are not considered safe behind the wheel, I don’t think that the “right” of a person who is known to be violent to loved ones to have a gun should even enter our consideration. It is better to infringe on the rights of ten guilty men than to let one innocent person be murdered, and if the problem is the ten guilty men weren’t actually guilty, we need to take *that* up at the court level, not at the level of protecting society from domestic abusers.

  67. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers July 1, 2010 at 11:38 am |

    As a fellow bipolar, I would also ask why on earth it’s a cherished privilege to get a gun more easily than it is to get a driver’s license? Gun ownership just isn’t a vital societal necessity the way a driver’s license is.

    This.

    I am getting really, really tired of people who are pro-gun ownership acting as if the safety and security of other people is a complete irrelevancy as to who is allowed to have a gun, because a gun is such a vitally important right and everyone must have one, while meanwhile my legally blind husband is denied the right to drive a car. He didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t crash a car and kill someone, but the state has determined that he doesn’t see well enough to drive safely, and they’re probably right.

    We don’t own guns. We’re legally allowed to, but both of us have had bouts with depression, so we don’t, personally, feel really safe owning guns, as we both feel we would be at much higher risk for suicide if there was a gun in the house. So far, we have encounted exactly *no* situations where it would have been helpful to have a gun, in ten years of living in one of the most violent cities in the United States.

    However, we encounter situations where it would be helpful if my husband could drive on the average of once a week, and that rarely only because we’ve already organized our lives around the fact that he can’t. He has suffered significant financial hardship in his life because he can’t drive. His inability to drive impacts *me* and what jobs I can take, because I have to do all the driving for kid-related tasks and errands, so I can’t work at a job where I travel… he wouldn’t be able to get the kids to day care. It affects our social lives. Before he met me, it actually put him at risk for considerable physical violence — having to walk everywhere means that he’s been mugged or jumped four times in his life, none of which would have happened if he’d been in a car at the time (and none of which would have worked out better for him if he’d owned a gun unless it was a pistol and he’d had a concealed carry permit, and probably it might not have helped even then.)

    I don’t see a lobby demanding that my husband be given the right to drive, despite the statistical likelihood that someone might end up dead if he did, even though the right to drive is a fundamental underpinning of modern American society and should not be taken away from anyone lightly. I don’t care what the Founders said, they didn’t live in a world with cars. Right now, in America today, the right to drive is MUCH MUCH MUCH more important to everyday life than the right to own a gun. But nobody lobbies for blind guys to drive cars, because it’s a fundamentally absurd idea.

    I’m not going to challenge the reality that if my husband drove a car, he’d be putting himself and other people at risk. But it’s a *major* imposition on his freedom that he can’t do it. Why is that less important than the right of a criminal to carry a gun? I mean, I can’t get over the fact that my husband is innocent, has never harmed anyone with a car, and yet can be deprived of the right to drive, while meanwhile people who have committed violent harm against other people are supposed to be able to have guns because their rights would be infringed? What? How about my husband’s rights? Gun folks don’t have a problem infringing the right of the blind to drive, even though blind people didn’t choose to be blind, whereas criminals do choose to commit crimes.

    How about, if we can refuse people with certain disabilities the right to drive even though they have committed no crime, we can refuse people WHO CHOSE TO COMMIT CRIMES the right to carry guns? This entire *argument* is ableist because it seems to be prioritizing a right being taken away from criminals on the grounds that they threaten other people if they have that right over a right being taken away from blind people and people with certain other disabilities, despite the fact that the second right’s more useful in today’s society and the disabled didn’t make a choice that resulted in losing their rights, while criminals did.

  68. April
    April July 1, 2010 at 11:50 am |

    Henry-

    Basically I would say that any offense serious enough to deny someone gun ownership should be a felony, and only a felony should be sufficient.

    I’ll take it one step further and say that if a person is convicted of violence of any kind, it should be a felony, and not a misdemeanor. And screw non-violent drug felonies, while we’re at it; give those felonies to the people that repeatedly push their wives, girlfriends and partners around. They do NOT need guns. Would I give a flying crap if a non-violent felon had a gun? No, probably not.

  69. Flowers
    Flowers July 1, 2010 at 11:50 am |

    @Alara – Why would you deny me a right because you don’t want to exercise it? Don’t want a gun? Don’t buy one. But why deny agency to me?

  70. Steve-0
    Steve-0 July 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm |

    “And it’s not as if the conviction rate is high, urban legends and scare stories notwithstanding.”

    You make a good point. While anecdotal, in my own experience as a criminal prosecutor my conviction rate for DV hovered around 30% as opposed to a general conviction rate of around 90% (excluding DV and sex crimes involving children). Other than sex offenses they are the most difficult and frustrating cases to deal with. Yet these myths abound and, in fact, seem to be gaining traction (primarily with the support of the growing “MR’s” movement).

    “The bottom line is, regardless of how unsympathetic we are to men who’ve been convicted of a D.V. charge, removing convict’s rights permanently, even after they’ve completed whatever punishment the state has mandated, is wrong.”

    I could be wrong but I believe only one or two states have permanent bans for felony convictions. All others have some process for reinstatement of the right after a certain period of time and after meeting certain conditions.

  71. Flowers
    Flowers July 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm |

    My suggestion is that background checks be for violent crimes and not mental illness. I’m saying that people don’t realize that people like me (bipolar people) are CONSTANTLY having to prove that we’re NOT violent, instead of having the state prove that we are. I guess it didn’t come across, but I wanted to point out that “background checks” is often thrown around when people think that mentally ill people (which includes a HUGE segment of the population) are getting guns. I am CONSTANTLY facing the idea that I’m violent, even though I’m not. People see “bipolar” and ASSUME “violence”…. and it’s based on stigma, nothing else. I wanted to bring that issue up for people who don’t have the experience of having to have a doctor’s note showing that they won’t kill people just to do my job or get a license to drive. I haven’t been proven violent….. The stigma that people hold against mental illness has people assuming that I’m violent, and based on that assumption (with no basis in reality), I am denied privileges and rights until I get a medical professional to say that I’m a normal human being.

    I just meant to point out a privilege that people don’t see because they don’t live in a world where they are assumed to be violent because they have been responsible enough to go to a doctor, be diagnosed with a mental illness, and seek treatment.

    I just wanted to make sure that people were clear on what they meant when they said “background checks.” In this case we’re talking about domestic violence convictions, but throughout the comments there have been mentions of or allusions to mental illness, and I want to say… again… BEING MENTALLY ILL DOES NOT MEAN THAT I AM AUTOMATICALLY VIOLENT.

    Hopefully this is clear. I fight stigma every day. EVERY DAY. I want to make sure that people can see that. I wanted to bring it up in this context, but I was just trying to bring it up, not get into a discussion about it. But recognizing privilege is important, and not being assumed to be violent is a privilege, and that needs to be known when people think that getting a license to drive is SOLEY related to ability to drive. For me, it also requires me to prove that I am NOT dangerous…. based solely on stigma.

    So relating gun ownership to driver’s licensing to me, because of what I go through to prove that I’m not violent, means “I want to stigmatize you.” People don’t MEAN it that way, but, because of what I go through, it does mean that. And it needs to be pointed out to people. Because they don’t live my life and they don’t know how hard I have to fight stigma. It’s the stigma that hurts, not the disease. That’s why gun ownership is a disability rights issue…. because of how the arguments are framed, and my personal experiences trying to get any sort of license from the state.

    When I hear “licensing” or “background checks,” I think “great… got to prove I’m human again…” Non-mentally ill people don’t have to think that, and they are lucky. And they need to know that they are lucky.

  72. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery July 1, 2010 at 12:51 pm |

    Do you also think it’s wrong to revoke the drivers licenses of people who have multiple drunk driving convictions? Do you think it’s wrong to bar convicted child molesters from teaching in schools or working at summer camps?

    I’d answer yes, in a qualified way, to both of those questions. Our drunk driving statutes are incredibly overbroad — many states have zero-tolerance policies in place and catch people who are not actually impaired using sobriety checkpoints. On top of that, the sentencing for drunk driving offenses often involves some sort of treatment, which presumably is supposed to correct the offender’s “problem.” If these punishments are supposed to be rehabilitative, then the state should have no right to continue punishing people after those sentences are served.

    When it comes to barring child molesters from working with kids, the decision, responsibility, and liability should reside with the hirer. “Sex offenders” can range from people who rape children to people who have been caught peeing in public, and blanket prohibitions affecting all of them are totally unfair.

  73. S
    S July 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm |

    If Flowers is right, and people with mental illnesses are going to be stopped from having guns SIMPLY by dint of having mental illness, then that is a feminist concern, as well, since the majority of people diagnosed with many mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, are women.

    Flowers, if you don’t mind my asking, what state(s) have you had trouble getting a driver’s license in? I’m asking because I have several friends with bipolar disorder throughout the northeast, one of whom has been hospitalized multiple times, but to the best of my knowledge none of them has never had any problem procuring a license, had to show medical records proving treatment, or anything like that.

  74. Flowers
    Flowers July 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm |

    @S – Texas. It was implemented recently. Not everyone who checks the box that they are bipolar has to get a note. I think it’s a random check. But it is required for some of us. Taking away rights and privileges from me has been incremental, and each time people say, “Why do you NEED to have that?” Or “But many of those people ARE dangerous!” It sucks to see my rights and privileges chipped away.

    But I’ll end this discussion now, because it probably has become a derail at this point. But I still think it’s important to raise the issue of mental illness when people discuss any sort of licensing, especially for guns.

  75. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 1, 2010 at 2:22 pm |

    I don’t need to be protected from myself. … Believe me, I’ve owned a gun all my life, and my two suicide attempts have been by other means. I’ve never even thought about killing myself with a gun. Do you want to come into my house and get rid of all my knives?

    Not to continue the derail (*does anyways*) but I wanted to address this. A classmate of mine in high school died right before graduation because he shot himself in the head — he’d survived multiple other non-gun-related suicide attempts and been hospitalized several times, and it was the gun that finally allowed him to “successfully” finish the job. He waited until he turned 18, bought a gun, and the next weekend he was dead because none of this showed up in a background check. Maybe if “multiple recent hospitalizations for attempted suicide” had been on his record he wouldn’t be dead. And yeah, when I was super depressed as a teenager I handed my pocket knife over to my mom to prevent myself from doing anything dangerous in a not-so-rational moment. If we’d had any guns in my house I would have insisted that I be kept away from those, too, for my safety and the safety of others.

    There is an interest in protecting people from themselves as well as each other. Reducing the stigma is obviously very important, but it’s also important for people not to die in miserable and unnecessary ways. I don’t think that your personal anecdotes can automatically trump the very real danger that under-regulated weapons like guns present.

    Guns are designed solely to be extremely good at killing things, including people. When a person has demonstrated that they are very likely to want to kill other people or themselves, they should not be given free access to a highly efficient means of doing so.

  76. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm |

    So, what I’m saying is that I understand to some extent about the stigma surrounding mental illness. It hasn’t been a problem for me in getting a driver’s license but it has been a problem in other (somewhat more subtle) ways.

    But I still would rather be righteously pissed off about having to get an unfair background check, or a doctor’s note, than have a classmate wander in and shoot 30+ of my peers or an ex-boyfriend walk into my workplace and take out the entire floor or an unfuckable MRA kill my entire aerobics class.

  77. Flowers
    Flowers July 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm |

    “But I still would rather be righteously pissed off about having to get an unfair background check, or a doctor’s note, than have a classmate wander in and shoot 30+ of my peers or an ex-boyfriend walk into my workplace and take out the entire floor or an unfuckable MRA kill my entire aerobics class.”

    But the two aren’t related. Unfair screening based on stigma WILL NOT stop everyone who wants to shoot people up. If you want to stop that, then blanket ban guns. OR LIMIT THE SCREENING TO VIOLENT CRIMES!

    But saying “You’re diagnosed bipolar. No gun for you!” will do nothing but further stigma. We wouldn’t ban gun ownership based on race, sex, or any other non-violence-related factor… even if the percentages of gun crime are higher in certain races or a sex. Why do it for mental illnesses unless you think it’s ok to label mentally ill people as inherently violent?

    ASSUMPTION OF VIOLENCE EQUALS STIGMA! There’s no way around it.

  78. solara
    solara July 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm |

    I think it has something to do with the stereotype that bipolar people swing from massive depression to uncontrollable mania (when in fact being bipolar is a continuum with some people more affected than others) and that this mania is HIGHLY DANGEROUS stuff that makes “normal” people into murderers. This isn’t true, but it is the working model most people have to go on, especially based on the (totally and completely accurate, of course) portrayal of bipolar people on television or in news stories. It’s just another thing that we need to educate people on so attitudes can properly reflect reality. Not all those who are bipolar, or depressed, or have any other mental illness, are dangerous – and those who are not dangerous should not be treated like they are.

  79. Faith
    Faith July 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm |

    “This conversation is so alien I keep wanting to take it to my leader. Even the police in Britain don’t have guns.”

    Don’t feel too bad. I’m an American born and bred. This conversation baffles me, as well. It never ceases to amaze me when otherwise non-violent, generally pretty reasonable individuals suddenly start arguing that damn near anyone who wants one has a right to own something that’s only purpose is essentially to kill. Whether another person or an animal. But, heaven forbid, if you are an American who speaks up and states that, Constitution or not, no one has any inherent right to own a weapon of destruction. Which is all guns are or ever will be. Disagreeing with a Constitutional amendment when you’re an American will damn near get you labeled the anti-christ.

  80. Flowers
    Flowers July 1, 2010 at 4:53 pm |

    “I don’t think that your personal anecdotes can automatically trump the very real danger that under-regulated weapons like guns present.”

    At this point the argument is about autonomy versus safety. I think we will never agree on that, but we both have valid points.

    However, that’s not really the point I was trying to get at in my original comment. The point of my original comment was the unacknowledged privilege of people who compare licensing for cars to licensing for guns as if there is no underlying stigma for mental illnesses involved in state licensing. We both acknowledge the stigma, but disagree as to whether the effect of the stigma is beneficial to those with mental illnesses or not. Since we both see the stigma and acknowledge it, I think we agree more than we disagree, and I’m more than happy to leave the conversation there…. but happy to discuss it more, if you want.

  81. April
    April July 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm |

    @Mike Crichton

    Slightly off topic: Several times on feminist blogs, I’ve read the claim that many, even most, women who are convicted of domestic violence were in fact defending themselves from abuse. Has anyone done any actual research into this, for example tracking how many female offenders are later assaulted by their original “victim”?

    I was charged (but ultimately not convicted) of domestic assault. The reason for my “assault” was that I had just finished being choked and thrown into a wall and held there by my partner at the time. After the ordeal was over (months later), he assaulted me again. That time I did not fight back, as I was on probation, and another domestic assault charge would have landed me in jail for much longer than the 15 hours I had to be there before. And I didn’t trust him not to call the police if I tried to stop him from chasing me across the apartment, throwing me to the ground, and choking me. Oh, and throwing a mattress on me. And stealing $300 cash from me.

    That was, as you may imagine, the last straw. But I didn’t manage to get me and my things out of that apartment without another loud, violent fight.

    So, yeah. It happens.

  82. William
    William July 1, 2010 at 7:10 pm |

    Ginmar@52

    comparing owning a gun to being pro choice is misleading at best. The bodily autonomy of a woman is not up for grabs and should not be compared to owning an object

    I actually disagree that its misleading because both are constitutional rights, both have a whole lot to do with self defense and autonomy, and both have a lot of very similar issues around them rhetorically. In the general discussion I think there are more valid exceptions (pretty much people with histories of violent offenses DV or otherwise) for gun rights than there are for abortion rights (pretty much none), but that doesn’t mean that the two aren’t striking similar, especially if the way you come to support both is through a radical support of individual liberty and autonomy.

    As far as the rest of it….It’s nice to see gun nuts being so blunt about how little they care about women, and how very much they care about woman abusers.

    You know, I’m guilty of it too, but given the turn this discussion is taking the term gun nut is actually pretty ableist. Also, I think you’re being disingenuous. This isn’t about not caring about women any more than abortion is about not caring about babies. I certainly agree that DV exceptions are (and ought to be) a non-starter for the gun rights movement, but there is a context here that I think a lot of people are missing. That doesn’t mean the position is right, and it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be pissed, but no one is going to learn anything (and no one is going to change their positions) if people are talking past one another. This probably isn’t the space for that discussion, but maligning entire movements, especially when there is a great deal of potential overlap, because someone else sees the world differently that you do strikes me as problematic.

    S@84

    If Flowers is right, and people with mental illnesses are going to be stopped from having guns SIMPLY by dint of having mental illness, then that is a feminist concern, as well, since the majority of people diagnosed with many mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, are women.

    Illinois actually has a law on the books designed to require doctors and therapists to report anyone who might pose a danger to themselves or others (as defined by merely being diagnosed with and treated for a serious disorder) to the state police in order to prevent them from getting FOID cards. It doesn’t actually work and isn’t enforced (and a lot of us providers would ignore it anyway based on privacy concerns), but its there.

    Thats one of the more invasive examples, but its hardly unique. Even the Heller decision explicitly mentioned one of the valid reasons for restricting ownership as someone being “mentally ill.”

    Bagelsan@86

    There is an interest in protecting people from themselves as well as each other.

    Completely aside from the gun debate…no, just no. Given the way society treats mad persons and the extreme ways in which mad people are restricted and abused at even the perception that they might potentially be dangerous at some point, society has pretty much lost any claim it might have on getting to play Daddy Knows Better. The specter of the dangerous madman has been used to beat, confine, abuse, sterilize, silence, dominate, and coerce human beings who deviate from the norms for so long and in so many ways that it is simply not something society gets to claim anymore. Its a vile stereotype and it is used to rationalize all manner of assaults. And thats before we even get into the concept of rational suicide and the (unfortunately radical) idea that people ought to have a right to decide what to do with their own damned bodies even if it means shutting out the lights and calling it quits because they’re sick of the horrors life has constantly subjected them to.

    Saying that “society has an interest in protecting people from themselves” is basically saying that your own discomfort at the idea of suicide justifies taking someone’s liberty, locking them away, taking every ounce of their autonomy, shooting them full of drugs until they obey, and putting them at a drastically increased risk of rape and assault. If you misspoke then I hope you think more carefully. If you really feel that way you can go to hell with the rest of the authoritarian abusers and I pray to any god that might be listening that any mad persons in your life know you well enough not to ask you for help. Ever.

  83. ginmar
    ginmar July 1, 2010 at 8:32 pm |

    April, I’m really sorry that happened to you. But Crichton is not arguing in good faith and is probably chuckling at his blog even now. Your experience is going to be twisted and lied about.

  84. Jenn
    Jenn July 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm |

    And, @Jenn, your use of the word “lunatic” is really very ableist. I don’t see that mental illness and an inability to grasp the nature of domestic violence are remotely correlated; you’ve just thrown in the word as a cheap and stigmatizing insult without having it make much sense.

    @Samantha.b
    Oh hell. I’m really sorry about that. I do try to be a good ally of disabled issues, but there’s my slip-up. Goes to show you that when I get irritated about people ignoring the larger topic of someone’s rights being ignored (i.e. domestic violence victims’), I do a hypocritical thing and do the same myself, by trampling on disabled rights. I’m sorry for being insensitive. Thank you for pointing my offensive error out to me.

    Still, (not directed at Samantha.b), this post derailed grievously quickly. It really gives me the indication that for a lot of people, gun rights are more important than DV victim’s right to not be threatened, assaulted, and murdered with a convicted violent felon’s firearms. And you know what? That’s really fucked up.

  85. Robert
    Robert July 1, 2010 at 9:33 pm |

    Excellent article! Well written and well-argued. Any chance I can republish this at http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com? If not, I’ll just blog it. Contact me please at guntruth@me.com.

  86. Miss S
    Miss S July 1, 2010 at 10:06 pm |

    When I hear “licensing” or “background checks,” I think “great… got to prove I’m human again…”

    Well, no. You just have to prove that you are non violent/don’t have a violent history. I certainly don’t think that all mental illnesses cause violence, but some of them do. Do people get disqualified just for having a mental illness, or does it depend on the type or history of the individual?

  87. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers July 1, 2010 at 10:14 pm |

    @Alara – Why would you deny me a right because you don’t want to exercise it? Don’t want a gun? Don’t buy one. But why deny agency to me?

    Honestly, I’m not interested in denying you agency. I don’t see a great deal of value in denying people who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses access to guns, *if* those people have never been violent. The world is full of non-violent people who are mentally ill, who would never use a gun to attack another person unprovoked. The world is also full of violent people who are deemed perfectly sane. I don’t want *THEM* having guns.

    If you’re bipolar but you’ve never been violent to another human being, or cruel to an animal (often a precursor that indicates later violence to humans), and you think you can handle owning a gun without it increasing your risk of suicide, I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t have one. But this thread is primarily about people who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes. I want background checks to weed *them* out. The stigma you suffer unfairly, that’s used against you unfairly, is *not* a good reason why violent people who have abused their lovers should have access to guns. It’s a good reason for you to protest that particular stigma, but you deserving the right to own a gun in no way trumps the right of the victims of domestic violence not to be murdered. You cannot couple the two together. If background checks to weed out criminals are inevitably used against the mentally ill… I’m sorry, and I’m sympathetic, and I believe in organizations like NAMI that fight back against that knee-jerk connection, but that *still* does not mean violent people should be allowed to own guns. The background checks should be for demonstrated violent behavior.

  88. Miss S
    Miss S July 1, 2010 at 10:24 pm |

    I don’t see how verifying for the mental stability of someone wanting to purchase a gun is anything like verifying race. Some mental illnesses do make people unstable. Someone in exteme mania or having a psychotic episode or someone who is delusional/hallucinating is not anchored in reality. I know someone who is schizophrenic who was very paranoid. She really thought that everyone was out to get her and she would shout in public places at people that no one else could see. It would be dangerous for her (WOC) to own a gun. It would not be dangerous for her to own a gun simply based on her race. If you can’t see the difference between mental illness and race…..

    There are different types of mental illness and varying levels of severity for most of them. It would be best if we could awknowledge that and stop lumping them all together.

    Also, April, I’m really, really sorry to hear about that.

  89. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 1, 2010 at 10:57 pm |

    I find it laughable that so many people here are talking about self-defense. The people who could use self-defense the most–women, gays, trans people, people of color–are often the targets of gun violence. To say that a batterer–someone with a history of battering his supposed loved ones–has a right to “defend” himself is beyond insulting in this context. Who the fuck is he defending himself against? The partner he brutalizes?

    I care that that anyone–mentally ill or not–can own something that is designed to kill people and to kill people efficiently. Sorry, but no. Your “agency” stops at my right to fucking live, and given the level of gun violence in this country–and the fact that it is the less powerful who are often targets of this violence–it is beyond sickening that people think it’s okay to treat this like it’s some huge fucking injustice that they can’t own a gun. I shouldn’t have to arm myself to protect myself from other gun owners. I have the right to go about my business without having to worry about dealing with that shit–and I wouldn’t have to worry about this level of violence if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people own guns.

    We have seen abortion clinic staff and doctors get gunned down–at the clinics, at home, and in fucking church. We have seen hate crimes agains women, shooting sprees and mass murders of women, at the hands of men with guns. See: George Sodini, Marc Lepine, and Charles Carl Roberts IV, just to name three. We have seen hate crimes–and gun crimes–against people of color, Jewish people, and gays.

    Self-defense my fucking ass.

    And if my partner is violent, really–is a gun an option? I’d say no–it can be turned on me quite easily. Getting out–well, that’s the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. That some of you would hand-wave this away is pretty damn telling. And yes, it extremely privileged.

    I also don’t believe it’s a “derail” do discuss the nature and scope of the right to armed self defense.

    When the OP deals with the fact that a guns rights group is agitating that MEN with a documented history and convictions of battering their partners should be able to own guns–when women in these situations are already at a high risk for being murdered–yes, it is a fucking derail, and ridiculously entitled of you to boot.

    The OP deals with the wisdom of curtailing rights (or not) when someone has committed some infraction against society.

    Beating up your partner is far more serious than an “infraction” but thanks for the dismissal.

    Unless one adopts the decidedly simplistic position that any infraction, regardless of seriousness, justifies the total denial of any right,

    Hey, Waymond, you know what is decidedly simplistic? To completely ignore the points that have been made repeatedly–that actual assault and battery is downgraded to a misdemeanor when the person who is assaulted and battered is the spouse or partner of the assailant. Actual assault and battery, violence, and stalking actually isn’t taken seriously by the courts or by society at large, and your continued dismissal of this only proves my point that you’re derailing.

    it’s a worthy debate to determine how these rights exist on a continuum of importance, just as the related crimes exist on a continuum of seriousness.

    And if DV was considered to be a serious crime, I might agree with you. However, as has been pointed out several times before, and as you, Henry, and others have chosen to ignore, those crimes are NOT taken seriously and are NOT considered important. And sorry, but my right to live supercedes your right to own a gun if you have a history of assaulting your partner.

    And not for nothing, but it is women who are the targets of gun violence. It comes right back to gender power imbalance. While men suffer gun violence from both men and women, 95% of women who are killed as a result of gun violence are killed by men.

    So yeah, you know? What about the men? That’s what it comes down to, Waymond, when it is men who are the most likely to kill women with firearms. When it is men who might be convicted of an “uninportant” misdemeanor charge when they batter their wives or girlfriends (as opposed to having a much more serious charge and sentence if the person they beat was not their partner). When it is men who are more likely to kill women with guns. When it is men who batter their partners–who are already more likely to kill their partners, are now supposed to be able to own guns (the better to stalk and kill their partners or estranged partners) despite their history of violence.

    No, you didn’t have to mention men. You just take it for granted that these DV charges are unimportant, that it is a worthy conversation to have about keeping firearms in the hands of men who hurt and kill the women in their lives. You just hand-wave away the fucking statistics and facts that several people have cited regarding the double-standard regarding charges.

  90. ginmar
    ginmar July 2, 2010 at 9:40 am |

    Gee, look at William, reducing womens’ bodily independence to something abstract. Shocking. Of course it’s an abstraction to you, William: you’ve never had people trying to take away your very right to exist.

  91. ginmar
    ginmar July 2, 2010 at 9:47 am |

    Where in fuck did that comment go?

    William, could you just stop and consider that gee, maybe a man dismissing a woman’s most basic right of all—her right to own her own body—is a tad more important than your idiotic privilege to own a gun that will be used against, probably, another person? But how shocking that a man is dismissing a woman’s right to exist.

  92. Faith
    Faith July 2, 2010 at 10:17 am |

    “Your “agency” stops at my right to fucking live, and given the level of gun violence in this country–and the fact that it is the less powerful who are often targets of this violence–it is beyond sickening that people think it’s okay to treat this like it’s some huge fucking injustice that they can’t own a gun. I shouldn’t have to arm myself to protect myself from other gun owners. I have the right to go about my business without having to worry about dealing with that shit–and I wouldn’t have to worry about this level of violence if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people own guns.”

    What Sheelzebub said.

  93. Sapphragette
    Sapphragette July 2, 2010 at 11:15 am |

    I am chillingly reminded of these words from the book “Trashing the Economy” by Alan Gottlieb (pro-gun nut and convicted felon. Gottlieb is the guy who regularly appears on TV after shootings and usually says that victims “deserve” to be shot because they should have “defended themselves better”…)

    “The message …must appeal to three base emotions; Fear, Hate and Revenge…

    “[The message]…must present you with a crisis — a problem won’t do…That crisis must frighten you…If you are not frightened, you won’t send money…

    “Then the [message]… must present you with a bogeyman against whom to focus your anger…

    “Once you’ve been frightened and made to hate the bogeyman, the successful direct mail appeal must offer you a way to get revenge against the bogeyman — the payoff for your contribution. The more soul-satisfying the revenge, the better the letter pulls.

    “All this must be dressed up in an appeal that appears to have a high moral tone, but which — without you realizing it — works on your lower emotions.”

  94. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis July 2, 2010 at 11:35 am |

    Wow, the level of ableism in this thread is just lovely.

    I don’t like guns, but no, mental illnesses does not make people violent and you don’t get to take away our rights for no reason besides a diagnosis.

    I am terrified of guns, or the possibility of ever hurting someone, that’s also why I don’t drive, even though I have no history of violence.

    I’m so glad you feel bad about furthering stigma, but apparently a lot of you don’t feel bad enough to stop doing it.

  95. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm |

    And thats before we even get into the concept of rational suicide and the (unfortunately radical) idea that people ought to have a right to decide what to do with their own damned bodies even if it means shutting out the lights and calling it quits because they’re sick of the horrors life has constantly subjected them to.

    Oh please. I’m pretty sure I made it clear upthread where I’m coming from on this issue — it’s not like I don’t know any “mad” people or haven’t been one my entire life. I just plain disagree about where the line being safety and autonomy should be drawn. The whole “rational suicide” idea is nothing new to me — I’ve had that discussion a couple times with my extremely depressed self and my suicidal friend(s) so don’t pretend you’re blowing my mind, here.

    I just don’t think that someone in the middle of a severe depression, for example, is rational. And I don’t want them dying because their brain chemistry decided to fuck with them particularly hard one day, just like I don’t want anyone dying of cancer because their stem cell chemistry decided to fuck with them. I don’t want anyone wandering into a school full of kids and shooting a few dozen of them because their brain chemistry wasn’t feeling so hot that year either, just as much as I don’t want someone killing a bunch of kids by wandering into a school while chalk full of bird flu. I don’t want mental illness killing people anymore than any other kind of illness, thanks. Being “mental” doesn’t privilege it, in my mind, over the rest of the illnesses that I want to do damage control for or cure. Plenty of diseases are stigmatized but that doesn’t mean people with these diseases don’t sometimes need help.

    Stigma is wrong but so are useless deaths of innocent people, and you and I just plain disagree about how those things should compromise with each other. I think that yeah, society is still fucking up a lot with regards to mental illness but no “free guns for everybody!” is not the way to compensate for this. Licenses and regulations all suck a lot — I would love to be like “oh, hey, I’m a good driver, by the way” and be allowed into a car without a license or say “for sure I’m over 21!” and not need any ID — or to mumble around a beer “hell yesh, offisher, I’m good to drive!” and be on my way home from the bar. Ultimate freedom! But that doesn’t mean it would be safe for society to let me do that. And I’m okay with compromising my freedom like that. I really am. Regulations should be better, and treat people more equally, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist.

    I think Flowers has it right. I fundamentally disagree about how much autonomy is too much. (And I’m not being a hypocrite about the gun thing, saying that particularly suicidal or despairing people shouldn’t get guns — I don’t think anyone should get guns.) I prioritize the safety of the people around me over my right to do whatever the hell I want and buy whatever the hell deadly weaponry I want. That’s just going to be a basic disconnect of opinion between us. I like all the non-gun freedoms I have, and giving up the single freedom of gun-owning is totally worth it to me if that means fewer people die and lose all their freedoms.

  96. solara
    solara July 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm |

    @thetroubleis: It is much more helpful (to me, at least) when specific instances of ableism in a discussion thread as long as this one are cited, and to me (someone who sometimes has trouble thinking of the proper words) it is also quite nice when alternatives to ableist language are suggested, such as discussing the problems specific with an idea/theory instead of just calling it “crazy.” IE, “Your theory is crazy and doesn’t work.” is inappropriate and should be replaced with something like, “Your theory appears to be based on untrue assumptions, and as such does not work.”

    Sorry for being picky, but as someone who is actively trying to rid themselves of ableist language, I find it helpful when those who see problematic words/phrases help me find a way to rephrase, though you do not actually have an obligation to help me or others in doing so.

    Also, as someone who frequently deals with fairly severe depressive episodes, and more than once a day deals with milder bouts of depression, I find the idea that I am completely illogical and irrational during these episodes quite troubling and, frankly, offensive. Being depressed is not the same as losing rationality, and it certainly won’t make me shoot others or myself. The implication that it could do so actually sickens me, not the least because if such a perception were taken as true where I live, I would probably be confined to a mental ward. Once again, my depression is not the same as yours – so please don’t talk about those who are depressed as if we all suffer the same as any individual. There are too many people ready to use any sort of labeling like that as an excuse to lock the “crazies” (as I’ve been called) up.

  97. Nomen Nescio
    Nomen Nescio July 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm |

    every time this topic comes up, the flaming goes through the same patterns, the same old stereotypical chestnuts. this thread was no exception.

    and every time, of late, it seems to me the pro-gun side is consistently the one to produce the calm, reasoned, rational, sensible arguments for their position. the pro-ban side… not so much. Henry compared it to the pro-life/pro-choice debate, and was promptly proven right about that.

    and the non-U.S. residents expressing bewilderment… i get it, i really do, having spent my first quarter century in northern Europe. but after a decade-plus in the USA, i’m starting to think this is one of those points us Americans have actually got more or less right — yes, heated debate and all. not getting it is fine, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you don’t get it, we must be in the wrong.

  98. Flowers
    Flowers July 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm |

    “I’m so glad you feel bad about furthering stigma, but apparently a lot of you don’t feel bad enough to stop doing it.”

    THIS. THIS. THIS. THIS. THIS. THIS.

  99. Flowers
    Flowers July 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm |

    “Well, no. You just have to prove that you are non violent/don’t have a violent history. I certainly don’t think that all mental illnesses cause violence, but some of them do. Do people get disqualified just for having a mental illness, or does it depend on the type or history of the individual?”

    THIS IS STIGMA AND ABLEIST THINKING! Making someone with a mental illness “prove” that they are not violent is stigma…. stigma… stigma.

    We get a little box to check that says, “Have you been diagnosed with or treated for x, y, or z?” And then if we check yes, we get lumped in the same box as “violent criminal” and then have to PROVE that we aren’t violent. AND THAT IS WRONG! And you can’t talk about licensing without acknowledging this fact because we have to do it for just about every single license from the state.

    Now, if everyone who went in to buy a gun had to prove that they were NOT violent, then that would not be stigma. But making the mentally ill prove non-violence while making the state prove violence for every else is wrong. AND THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS! And discussing state licensing without acknowledging that means that the person is coming from a place of privilege and just doesn’t give a shit about those of us who fight with the state for rights and privileges that they take forgranted.

  100. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 2, 2010 at 5:23 pm |

    and every time, of late, it seems to me the pro-gun side is consistently the one to produce the calm, reasoned, rational, sensible arguments for their position.

    Oh, indeed. Ignoring the actual statistics presented and the facts about DV crimes being reduced to a misdemanor, and dismissing battery as a silly inconsequential trifle is calm, reasoned, rational, and sensible. If, say, you’re completely immersed in your privilege and refuse to admit to your own biases.

  101. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 2, 2010 at 5:36 pm |

    William, in every discussion about gun rights, I’ve seen men come into this space and dismiss the fact that women are often the targets of violence, especially gun violence. I’ve heard gun-rights proponents talk about wearing their weapons to send a message and get terribly offended when it’s been pointed out to them that that message of violence is often directed to women, people of color, the LGBT community, and other vulnerable groups. I’ve heard people with a lot of privilege talk about their need to defend themselves (and the right of men who have battered their partners to defend themselves, which is just fucking insulting, all things considered). I’ve read comments that if we don’t disagree nicely with tea and cookies (because it’s totally fine to ignore all of the fucking stats and facts we did present), we’re irrational–a charge never, ever thrown at women dontcha know.

    Sorry, but I don’t see how I could ever trust these folks enough to be allied with them.

  102. maribelle1963
    maribelle1963 July 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm |

    I probably shouldn’t say too much here as I am being triggered eight ways from Tuesday (we lost my bipolar brother to suicide 21 years ago)

    but just had to say

    1. Bagelsan, thanks for your words. Really. Too many good quotes to pull just one.
    2. Stigmatizing mental illness is wrong. Full stop.
    3. With great love and respect, I must point out that if you have tried to kill yourself twice you HAVE DEMONSTRATED A PROPENSITY FOR VIOLENCE.

    Peace, love and happy 4th.

  103. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac July 2, 2010 at 6:49 pm |

    and every time, of late, it seems to me the pro-gun side is consistently the one to produce the calm, reasoned, rational, sensible arguments for their position.

    Really? But not in this thread. There are no rational or sensible arguments for the gun-industry’s notion that it’s highly profitable to claim gun-owning is a basic right, nor any way to substantiate the modern re-interpretation of the Second Amendment from the establishment of a citizen militia to a gun-toter’s paradise.

    Where pro-gun people win is where pro-life people win, or pro-torture people: they don’t really care about the lives their arguments are destroying, so they are calmer about defending their views. This is not more rational, however; faced with such destruction and indifference to human life being presented as a moral value – whether by pro-life, pro-gun, or pro-torture apologists – it is perfectly rational to be unable to remain calm. Evil is worth getting agitated about.

  104. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 2, 2010 at 8:30 pm |

    Oh come on, Jesurgislac, why in the world wouldn’t you want complete sociopaths making all the important decisions? They’re so dispassionate*! :p

    *which somehow translates into having society’s best interests at heart…? Somehow? Even though they’re pretty infamous for always having their own interests first and foremost…?

  105. Miss S
    Miss S July 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm |

    I asked if having a mental illness automatically disqualified you or whether they investigated to see if the person has a violent history. If it automatically disqualifies you, I disagree with it. If it just means they investigate for a history of violence, then I don’t see a problem. Having a mental illness does not make you exempt from rules and regulations, not when considering the safety of others. It’s not ableism to care about the mental stability of who is buying guns. It’s called safety and regulation.

    Once again, I’ll point out that mental illnesses are so different from one another that it doesn’t benefit anyone to lump them together. If you have a mild form of OCD and wash your hands repeatedly (someone I know), I think you’re less of a concern than the person who has had multiple psychotic episodes. When it comes to owning guns. So what you call ableist I call responsible. We can agree to disagree.

    I really dislike the idea of women who have fought back having a violent charge on their record and being unable to own a gun.
    This is complex. If your ‘violent history’ involves fighting back against a partner who was abusive, should it disqualify you? I say no. And I know this happens.

  106. eilish
    eilish July 2, 2010 at 10:44 pm |

    I have realised that constitutional rights are extremely important to Americans. I remain confused as to why the people who are most passionate about them don’t seem to mind that other people are bullied, harrassed, demeaned and even killed.

    As for the calm, rational arguments of the pro-gun side as opposed to the hysterical rantings of the anti-gunners: here’s what Jeff Knox of The Firearms Coalition had to say, way up above Comment 80, where Jill asked Flowers if she was suggesting getting rid of checks altogether but Flowers was too distracted by the ableism in the thread to answer her:
    “There was no reduction in murder or assault rates on spouses after Lautenberg passed but there were thousands of lives torn apart.” I googled, and found that after Lautenberg passed, police officers and armed services members with convictions had to quit. I don’t know how many were affected. I don’t know how many wives of soldiers and police officers weren’t beaten anymore after it, either.

    If we pass laws like this, it will affect people adversely. But it also says “in our society, violence towards your partner and family is unacceptable.”
    We need to do that.

  107. William
    William July 2, 2010 at 10:49 pm |

    @Ginmar

    William: you’ve never had people trying to take away your very right to exist.

    Well, as someone who is “invisibly” disabled, who is mad, and who is a male victim of rape I think I am on pretty strong ground to say otherwise. From subtle things like having to fight for the right to not be put into four point restraints for being in a “special” school and not following protocol for walking myself to the washroom to less subtle things like a gun in my face, I’ve been there.

    You don’t like my abstraction? Thats great, different experiences will yield different results and I’m open to the fact that I could well be wrong. Hell, thats why I come here, because I’ve learned a lot about myself, my privilege, and about the other side of a lot of arguments by hearing people who had different experiences and different points of view. Its not even a tone thing, I’m aware that I’m in another’s space and that they can use any damned tone they please. But don’t make assumptions about me or where I’ve been.

    William, could you just stop and consider that gee, maybe a man dismissing a woman’s most basic right of all—her right to own her own body—is a tad more important than your idiotic privilege to own a gun that will be used against, probably, another person?

    First, idiotic is an archaic and dehumanizing term used by those in power to describe what they perceived as a specific lack of intelligence in oppressed individuals in order to justify further oppression, marginalization, and exclusion. Using it as a tag for “something I dislike” is both offensive and ableist.

    Second, the reason I’m as passionate about gun rights as I am and the reason I’m as passionate about abortion as I am are interrelated. I’ve had my body used against my will. So yeah, guns are designed to be used against other people. Thats why I own them and why I always will own them. Thats why I have owned them in Chicago despite the gun ban. I made a decision, for myself (which I do not expect others to make or believe they should be forced to make) that I would die before I was held face down in a puddle of someone else’s urine again. I made a decision that I would die before being sexually violated again. I made a decision that I would do what I damned well had to (even if that meant dying) to protect my body and my basic right to be a human being. Guns help me do that by giving me the power to defend myself, take a few of the bastards with me, or take a very final out. I wish I didn’t have to feel like I need a gun to protect myself from being victimized but I do. The reality is that no one has ever been there to protect me, the courts did not take my victimization seriously, society has no interest in changing. No, I’m not a woman so the world hasn’t failed me in the specific ways in fails women, but its failed me as a disabled person, as a mad person, as a male survivor of sexual assault, and along many other lines. I’m not interested in playing the oppression olympics and I’m not saying I’ve had it worse, but goddamn…did it ever cross your mind that maybe some of us might not be in the Klan?

    I don’t like that I have to think about my life in this way, but thats the life I’ve lead. These things, my own right to my body and my right to defend it myself (because god knows no one ever has for me), are tied together for me. I hate that I have to fight for the basic ability to protect myself just like I hate that I had to fight for the right to be educated or to be considered a human being with their own agency. I hate that this is what I have had to become, but I also know that there aren’t a lot of other alternatives for me. These are the things my life has lead me to. Perhaps they are not for everyone, and thats fine. We all have different lines and values. This is mine. If that makes you feel justified in invoking vile ableist language in an attempt to erase my experience to ease the way for legislation that would make me a criminal, whatever.

    But how shocking that a man is dismissing a woman’s right to exist.

    Where did I ever dismiss a woman’s right to exist? Seriously? Where did that happen? You disagree with me, you don’t like my position, you don’t like the way I think, I get that and thats valid. But where did I say women have no right to exist? Where did I even say I think a DV exception for gun ownership was a bad idea?

  108. William
    William July 2, 2010 at 10:49 pm |

    @Baglesan

    I just don’t think that someone in the middle of a severe depression, for example, is rational.

    And thats ableism. I’m sorry, I know it isn’t comfortable, but thats ableism at the most basic level. You’re saying that you know better for someone. You’re saying that what they are feeling and experiencing is real. At the core you’re saying that what you want for them is more important than what they want. You want to be able to control their lives and their bodies so you don’t feel sad when they go. Everything else is just bullshit to justify that. If they’re dead, by definition, they no longer care or feel or want or regret. They’re done. You’re just looking for an excuse to not hurt. I sympathize, I really do, but that doesn’t justify taking away someone’s most basic right: the right to decide if they exist. Enforcing existence is just as repugnant as taking it. It isn’t your life, you don’t get to make the call.

    I don’t want anyone wandering into a school full of kids and shooting a few dozen of them because their brain chemistry wasn’t feeling so hot that year either,

    There you are, muddying the waters. Suicidal people very rarely harm others. Suicide and homicide aren’t two sides of a coin. Hell, even the aggression of a suicide tends to be bound up in hurting someone else by the act of killing oneself. Mad people don’t tend to hurt others, violent people do. The groups overlap no more than the general population. We like to think that you have to be crazy to hurt someone else, but that just isn’t supported by the facts. Violent people who do not respect the rights of others violate people. Mad persons, in all but a tiny handful of cases, are victims rather than aggressors.

    I don’t want mental illness killing people anymore than any other kind of illness, thanks. Being “mental” doesn’t privilege it, in my mind, over the rest of the illnesses that I want to do damage control for or cure.

    Again with the ableism. You’re defining human experience as an illness to be cured. The fact that it is “mental” is important because it is used as the rationalization for forcing treatment on people because they aren’t “rational.” The criteria for the illnesses are defined by a deviation from the ideals established and defined by those in power. Madness is different from cancer because cancer isn’t who you are, cancer isn’t adaptation, cancer isn’t dissent. I have no problem with someone saying to their friends, family, and doctor “look, I don’t want to die, if I’m suicidal heres a power of attorney.” What I do have a problem with is the very real, very common situation of someone being dragged away, confined, and medicated against their will until they no longer voice a desire that those around them are uncomfortable with.

    Ultimate freedom! But that doesn’t mean it would be safe for society to let me do that.

    But violence and madness are, essentially, unrelated. THATS the stigma, thats the ableism you’re speaking from. You’re saying that violent people should be restricted from owning guns, something that pretty few serious people are going to disagree with. Then you’re tying madness to violence in order to restrict suicides. Suicide and violence are unrelated, but you’re using it as a link to restrict the behaviors of the mad because you value your comfort more than theirs.

    I’m going to be blunt. My calling the ableism you’re displaying isn’t about guns. The underlying logic is what is ableist and it would be there if we were talking about people killing themselves with guns, pills, razors, tall buildings, whatever. On the issue of suicide, and of restricting people who appear suicidal, you’re putting your own desires in front of the desires of another and then arguing that society has a right to enforce your desires on the very bodies of others. Thats the same underlying logic of the pro life movement and of every other little moral fascist who believes that they ought to have a right to dominate the lives of others.

    But you know what? Fuck it. I’m out. I’m here a lot and I like to contribute to the discussion but the gun argument seems to be not worth having, I now have the luxury of not having to care because its an individual right thats been incorporated, and the ableism is getting a bit tough to stomach.

  109. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis July 2, 2010 at 10:50 pm |

    @solara: When did I even mention what my depression is like? I was actaully talking about my own anxiety. Please, point out wording were I applied what I said to any one else, beyond the fact that having a diagnosis doesn’t automatically make you violent.

  110. eilish
    eilish July 3, 2010 at 12:21 am |

    Being concerned about the safety of someone experiencing mental disruption, and the people around them isn’t ableism.

  111. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 3, 2010 at 3:45 am |

    Oh good lord, William, it’s like you just learned the word “ableism” and have to use it in a sentence 5 times. Considering you’ve gone through my comment point by point I would’ve thought you’d actually read the whole thing, but I guess not.

    I, and literally almost everyone I know and love, have one or more forms of mental illness. Depending on the type and situation, myself and others have been at times not rational. It doesn’t make us bad people, it makes us people who have at times had impaired judgment and a dangerously unrealistic view of reality, and who have even needed to grudgingly accept outside help (and a teenage girl who is completely but totally wrongly convinced that her parents just want to drug her into acting like “a good girl” is very grudging indeed. Until the meds kicked in and I was able to look back and say “holy fuck I was in a bad place, thank god my parents did something even though I bitched about it.”)

    Getting depression properly treated is like waking up from a long disjointed nightmare; if you kill yourself, desperate and hurting in the middle of that nightmare, you can never wake up. You’ll never ever feel what it’s like not to be in a nightmare. You’ll never have a chance to regain that precious rationality.

    I think that life-altering (and ending) things like that should be prevented and, yes, treated like any other illness — being in a horrible, miserable state of mind is not a “personality trait” or a “quirk” or an act of cute lil counter-culture rebellion. It’s a fucking horrible, miserable state. And you, William, can plug your ears and scream “ableist!” at the people who talk about their experiences all day long and it won’t make a bit of difference.

  112. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 3, 2010 at 3:50 am |

    @maribelle1963: I’m really sorry about the triggering, and about your brother. I’ve been very lucky, all in all, just having close calls with friends. And dealing with the not-actually-suicidal-but-wow-I-spent-the-weekend-crying kind of stuff, which is miserable but not actually dangerous. Definitely my sympathies to you.

  113. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable July 3, 2010 at 10:00 am |

    Wow, re: the ableism upthread. Get thee to a 101 site, please.

    @Faith “Disagreeing with a Constitutional amendment when you’re an American will damn near get you labeled the anti-christ.” THANK YOU. I feel like I’ve thought this for years but just couldn’t get the words together to say it.

  114. William
    William July 4, 2010 at 2:16 am |

    I, and literally almost everyone I know and love, have one or more forms of mental illness.

    Almost everyone can say the same thing. Madness is the norm, especially amongst the oppressed because madness is both normal and is defined as the responses oppressed people have to the trauma they face. I’m saying this as a therapist, as a mad person, as a family member of mad persons, as someone who has won awards writing on the subject of madness and autonomy. I know we disagree, but one of the reasons I keep shouting ableism (and don’t think your tone argument has gone unobserved) is because you seem determined to completely ignore the aspects of social coercion which inform not only how people come to be defined as mad but also how we come to treat them.

    You talk about people being irrational but the world is not objective. Rationality is defined by persons in power. It is defined as the responses persons who have the power to write diagnostic criteria and evaluate patients would like to see. Rationality is an ideal, it is not only illusory (because it hardly takes an analyst to see that virtually no one responds to the world unaffected) but the very concept of rationality is a means of silencing people who respond to the world in ways which those with power find uncomfortable. Its calling the ideals dictated by the values of the kyriarchy reality. It is saying that people who step too far from their place, whose experience strays too farm from a norm everyone knows to be bullshit, are wrong. More than that is is saying that they are wrong for the specific purpose of subjecting them to coercion and violence until they submit to a certain base level of dominance. That is what we mean by “impaired judgement,” it is shorthand for “far enough out of line that we can do what we please until they stop making us uncomfortable.” This is why mad persons complain about having to prove they’re people. This is why the majority of my job revolves around helping people reestablish a sense of autonomy and sort through the deeply internalized messages of their own badness and lack of worth. This is why, at bottom, most people who become suicidal think about killing themselves: because they have been so beaten and so devalued that the only possible way they have left to exert their own needs is to extinguish them entirely.

    I’m glad your experience worked out for you though, as you have admitted, you haven’t really been to that precipice yourself. I too have benefited from treatment, though it never did anything but make me worse until I sought it voluntarily. Even so, I have been to that edge. I’ve had patients who have. Survival for us has been about support and about the ability to explore the idea of walking away. In both my own personal experience and in the experience of the patients I have thought posed the greatest risk of suicide the immediate trigger was a sense of powerlessness, of having been dominated, of having no other control over one’s life. I would have been heartbroken if one of my patients had decided to make that choice, but I recognize that that is my sadness, not theirs. I am not more important than they are. To impose my love for someone on them despite so powerful a hate for life that they would rather not exist than continue to exist as they are cannot be love because to love is to not see someone as an object which exists primarily for our own comfort.

  115. Abby
    Abby July 4, 2010 at 3:41 am |

    This is an article I found linked from a page off the Gun Owners of America website. It seems to shed much light on the reasoning behind their stance on the issue. For the record, I’m not taking a stance myself just yet as I don’t know much about guns/gun laws, but I’m curious to know what everyone thinks after reading the article.

    http://www.examiner.com/x-1417-Gun-Rights-Examiner~y2010m5d4-Does-grandma-slapping-unruly-teen-warrant-lifetime-ban-on-guns

  116. ginmar
    ginmar July 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm |

    You know what, William? I don’t give a fuck. The way things are in society, the way reality exists for women now, one can safely conclude that any man one knows is not a rape victim, not this, not that. One cannot do the same about this with women, so you’re just playing oppression olympics. I really don’t give a fuck about your ideals; you’re comparing inanimate objects to a woman’s right to exist, and aren’t you a super special snowflake!

    You don’t like my abstraction? Thats great, different experiences will yield different results and I’m open to the fact that I could well be wrong. Hell, thats why I come here, because I’ve learned a lot about myself, my privilege, and about the other side of a lot of arguments by hearing people who had different experiences and different points of view. Its not even a tone thing, I’m aware that I’m in another’s space and that they can use any damned tone they please. But don’t make assumptions about me or where I’ve been.

    Yeah, assumptions? Let’s see, you dismiss womens’ right to exist and control her own body as being no more important than your right to have a violent toy with which to threaten people. Damned if I know why so many supposed male rape victims are such assholes to women. It’s like they think they get to go to the head of the line or something. But you don’t get to fuck people up because something that overwhelmingly happens to women happened to you. (And how But What About the Men! of you, too. Not that I’ve had men lie about it, either, because rape just doesn ‘t matter to men, unless it’s False Accusation Bingo.)

  117. eilish
    eilish July 4, 2010 at 8:40 pm |

    Abby: Groups protesting any law always come up with a case to illustrate the harm caused by the law. The more ludicrous the case, the better it is. They want people to think “well, that is just silly.” It makes the people who already agree nod their heads, but I’m not sure it affects people on the other side.

    The argument comes down to : is owning a gun a human right?
    If you think, yes, then any restriction on anyone is wrong.
    If you think, no, then you think lots of restrictions are a good thing.
    William sees ableism in the view that guns should be restricted to people with certain mental illnesses, because he believes everyone has the right to own a gun. Bagelsan believes gun ownership should be limited, and so, restricting people with certain mental illnesses from gun ownership seems a sensible idea.
    Is Bagelsan being ableist? Only if you think everyone should own a gun.

    The rules of InterNeTcine warfare clearly state that when Commenter A calls Commenter B a “-ist” Commenter B can respond with the “tone” objection.

  118. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable July 4, 2010 at 8:51 pm |

    Abby, I haven’t watched the videos, but having read the article – if I can’t trust you to keep your hands to yourself if I’m being “mouthy” and am in no way an actual, physical threat – then I don’t want you to have anything else in your hands the next time I say something you don’t like. Meeting emotional abuse with violence is not okay, regardless of who you are and how sympathetic a character you might be. You’ll also note that the GOA talk down about the old woman – calling her scared, confused, and frail. I won’t presume that’s true. Old does not mean free from being a credible threat.

    Also, when the first comment is from a guy who unapologetically admits he is subject to the law because he grabbed his wife by the shirt after she threw coffee on him and doesn’t see why that’s wrong? My sympathy is limited.

    That said, I say this as someone who grew up in a violent household and was guilt tripped every time I thought about calling for help. “Do you want to get taken away and never see anyone in this family ever again??” I would bet some dude’s left nut that it was not the first time the girl got hit for being “mouthy.”

  119. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable July 4, 2010 at 9:05 pm |

    Eilish, William @ 22 said that he understands the desire to limit gun ownership from people who have been convicted of domestic violence. Please don’t discredit his claims of ableism by saying he clearly wants everyone to have equal access to guns, when that might not be the case.

    Many of the comments on this thread have been horrifically ableist. I honestly would prefer the US would go the British/Australian route and limit gun ownership from all people (and I think it’s funny that there isn’t an uproar in those countries about gun ownership being a fundamental human right). But, given that it is legal in the US to privately own guns, saying that people with depression or bipolar shouldn’t have guns or access to guns is ableism. It paints all people with depression with the same broad stroke, and it’s not a mood disorder that plays out the same way in each depressed person.

    This isn’t the only realm where misinformed hype over the disorders affects the individuals’ accessibilities. I had a friend who was depressed – not suicidal, and they are NOT synonymous – but depressed, and wouldn’t go see a shrink over it lest he get diagnosed. He worked in a job that required government clearance, and having one of those diagnoses significantly reduces your chances of advancement. Why? Was he more likely to blow a giant government secret?

    No. It’s fucking misinformed and prejudiced.

  120. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 5, 2010 at 7:25 am |

    Seriously, Abby?

    Yet another scare story. That’s all it is. And you know, reading the comments, I see a lot of DV apologists–women should be armed too and that way we totally won’t have to worry about getting beaten and killed–even though (yet more dismissal!) women with abusive partners are more likely to be killed if there are guns in the house. I mean, the solution is what–pack heat at all times?

    Another jackhole likened the right to gun ownership to the right to eat and breathe, and said that an abuser who had a gun was still within his rights, and his propensitiy to use it was between himself and the woman he went after–or her rescuer (since they are all waiting in the wings).

    And then, of course, we hear more crap about how DV charges are all a lie anyway (as are child abuse charges). So the guns rights propoents will just have to excuse me if I don’t buy their assurances that yes, they truly do think that DV is a serious issue and that batterers should get jail time.

    And not for nothing, but the misogyny and privilege from some people on this thread is making me throw up in my mouth a little. Women who get angry over the dismissal of DV as serious are irrational (hey, never heard that before), DV isn’t a serious crime, it’s no big deal that of the gun homicides where women were killed, 95 percent of them were committed by men, and it has been straight, and we are oppressive meanies even though it’s White cis men with guns that have been threatening women, people of color, the LGBT community, and other marginalized groups.

    These people push this vile misogyny, and I’m supposed to think we’ll be allies one day? Sorry, no. I can’t be allies with anyone who thinks I’m less than human.

  121. Dao
    Dao July 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm |

    This. As a survivor of DV I can see that for some people my right to safety is outweighed by the rights/desires of others to own guns. I’m sick of people talking abstractly about something that affects so many women and men in the world.

    Also, many people are discussing the nature of mental illness and background checks. I feel this is a little off topic, but when I think further that some health insurance companies want to make it a “pre-existing condition” not to mention the fact that I suffer from PTSD and anxiety due to the five years I spent being abused the two–mental illness and background checks–are related, at least in my personal experience because my mental illness could affect my insurance, or in some cases, my ability to get a driver’s license.

  122. eilish
    eilish July 6, 2010 at 4:59 am |

    Pretty Amiable: I am not discrediting William, I am clarifying the differences of opinions.

    I am thinking about how to balance respect for the autonomy of the individual with duty of care. I couldn’t feel comfortable at William’s level of respect, but that doesn’t mean I am all for involuntary hospitalisation and medicinal lobotomy.

    Pointing out the discriminatory elements in my thinking is conducive to discussion. Calling me ableist shuts it down.

  123. firefey
    firefey July 6, 2010 at 11:21 am |

    @ginmar: really? as much as i find there are super problematic things with William’s posts attacking his claim to being a victim of rape is just not OK. ALL VICTIMS OF RAPE DESERVE TO BE BELIEVED!! full stop. i really don’t give a fuck if you disagree with his points. because yes, he has demonstrated an inability to incorporate hard statistical data into his view on who should be allowed to own a gun, a thing designed to kill. and yes, he uses some incredibly problematic and archaic language (mad? really?) and yes he has dismissed the actual lived experiences of women in favor of his firearms. but accusing him of lying about his rape is just so WTF douchtastic……

  124. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 6, 2010 at 3:33 pm |

    he uses some incredibly problematic and archaic language (mad? really?)

    I think “mad” is being sort of reclaimed, actually. I’m not particularly onboard with the movement, myself (I personally find it archaic-sounding and I’m not keen on the whole pretend-its-all-a-totally-fine-part-of-the-human-experience-so-stop-bitching aspect) but it’s not completely unheard of.

  125. KL
    KL July 7, 2010 at 2:26 pm |

    @ginmar, I completely second firefey, the “supposed male rape victim” completely out of line and uncalled for. Turns out anyone can be a victim of rape and some of those people, men and women, can be huge gun right supporters, doesnt make their rape experience less real or give you any right to attack it because you disagree. No one deserves to be raped, no one deserves to not be believed, and no one deserves to be told their experience isnt as valid or isn’t as bad because “more” women experience it than men. Just because you don’t like his stance or just because he is a man doesn’t mean you can “safely” make assumptions about his life or his experiences.

  126. karak
    karak July 8, 2010 at 1:42 am |

    A woman in my hometown was shot in the head by her ex-husband, a convicted domestic abuser who was under a restraining order. He showed up at her place of work, tried to drag her out, and then pulled out a gun and murdered her.

    I can’t possibly say there isn’t someone convicted of DV who is really a great person and the whole thing was orchestrated by a bitter ex-partner. I can say that a lot more women are going to be shot in the head if people convicted of DV are allowed to have guns. And, weighing the two evils, I’d rather have the former situation. Then again, I’m a woman and I’m much more likely to be shot in the face than be falsely convicted of DV, so maybe this is just my fear of death talking.

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