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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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40 Responses

  1. hmmmmmn
    hmmmmmn March 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm |

    Interesting.

    However, is there data that actually shows an increase (separate from an increase that was already happening pre-law change) in domestic violence murders after these laws were passed?

    Lot of people made a big deal about the assault weapons ban expiring and increasingly liberal gun laws in all states, but homicide continued to fall so it was all speculative.

    All that said criminals should never have guns; they’re already responsible for the vast majority of gun violence so we know they’re the problem. But a mere temporary order without a full adjudication and due process is probably insufficient grounds to deprive someone of a fundamental right, including the right to bear arms.

    1. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers March 21, 2013 at 3:32 pm |

      We’re willing to deprive mentally ill people of a much more fundamental right, the right to liberty, on the grounds that we have reason to believe they may harm *themselves*. And where we are defining mental illness, tautologically, as “any desire to commit self harm”.

      We are absolutely able to deprive people of a Bill of Rights- protected right on the basis of a perceived threat. We deprive people of the right to leave town because the police want to question them (not charge them), we deprive people of freedom of speech because a judge has decided that the thing they want to talk about would create a problem for justice or due process if they talk about it (gag orders), we deprive people of their CHILDREN because of perceived threats to the children even if there has been no charge and no full adjudication. People in New York have had their children taken away because of a threat to *them*, the person with the children, not because they were a threat (it used to be routine to take kids away from abused moms and put them in foster care.)

      Depriving someone of the right to carry a particular type of weapon (since being denied the right to carry a gun doesn’t deny you the right to carry mace, or a sack of pennies tied to a rope) on the grounds that they present a perceived threat to another person is well within bounds for how things are conducted in the US.

  2. hotpot
    hotpot March 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

    Removing firearms from people who have shown themselves to be physically violent toward their partners is entirely in step with the functions of our legal system.

    Absurd that this even needs to be said.

    I also think it’s absurd that the NY Times had to comb through court documents on a case by case basis to write their story. The states should be keeping complete historical records on protection orders, domestic violence fatalities, and criminal convictions in a centralized manner, so that they can easily be cross-checked.

  3. matlun
    matlun March 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm |

    I do not get the NRA and US politics.

    I am not fanatically pro-gun-control in general, so I am sometimes on their side on the issues, but how can it be such a huge issue in the US? Why is this in the constitution? How can this type of narrow interest group be one of the stronger lobby organizations in the country?

    As to the specific issue here: “It is better if violent criminals do not have guns” is just so fundamental it should not have to be discussed.

    1. because
      because March 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

      1) firearms were necessary for survival for the early part of our history. Most of the nation was a wild frontier from Europeans’ point of view. Not only for protection against hostile Native Americans, but other to hunt and survive. Way different than the situation in Europe when democracy developed there.

      2) we fought for independence against the most powerful empire in the world using an army of common citizens armed with guns. Guns in the hands if the people were thus seen as a deterrent against tyranny and the ultimate check on government power.

      3) the very idea of a standing army was dangerous to many of the founders. State militias were to provide for much of the national defense.

      4) The right to bear arms for personal protection is an ancient natural right in the anglo legal tradition, which is the foundation for US law. It was similarly codified (but by no means originated) in the English Bill of Rights (with more classist limitations imposed upon it)

      1. A4
        A4 March 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm |

        Most of the nation was a wild frontier from Europeans’ point of view. Not only for protection against hostile Native Americans, but other to hunt and survive.

        1) The Native Americans managed to survive without guns in this “wild frontier” of which you speak.
        2) The Native Americans had a lot of reasons to be hostile. Actually, I’m pretty sure the hostility was started by the Europeans and their treatment of the Native Americans as though they were subhuman savages.

        I’m not really contradicting your points; I’m just adding a little clarifying context. Your comment was playing into some incredibly inaccurate portrayals of the colonization of the Native American people and their land. I think you should be more careful about that in the future.

        1. xzaebos
          xzaebos March 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm |

          Well, regardless who, as a whole, provokes hostilities. If someone intends to kill you or loved ones, then right and wrong are right out the window.

          While I think some native Americans had to have been evil and cruel, the vast majority of the hostilities were indeed the Euro’s fault.

        2. xzaebos
          xzaebos March 20, 2013 at 11:12 pm |

          Actually, I feel like what I said was stupid.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 20, 2013 at 9:51 pm |

        1) firearms were necessary for survival for the early part of our history. Most of the nation was a wild frontier from Europeans’ point of view. Not only for protection against hostile Native Americans, but other to hunt and survive. Way different than the situation in Europe when democracy developed there.

        It’s amazing how South American countries don’t have exactly the same gun laws as the US, then, since they too were fighting “hostile natives” who were considerably better organised than anything in continental North America. (I’m not going to address the racism since A4 already did.)

        2) we fought for independence against the most powerful empire in the world using an army of common citizens armed with guns. Guns in the hands if the people were thus seen as a deterrent against tyranny and the ultimate check on government power.

        Oh puhleeze. That “army of common citizens armed with guns” was being backed up by foreign navy fleets. And assisted by those very same “hostile” Native Americans who’d be declared foreigners in their own land, by the way. Also, Britain was hardly the most powerful empire of the day. At the time of the US’ independence, they held the east coast of the US, bits and pieces of what would become India, and the West Indies. Hardly that threatening.

        Now, if you were going to say that US Patriots(TM) should stockpile French people in their basements in the event of an oppressive government, I’d call that intellectual consistency.

        4) The right to bear arms for personal protection is an ancient natural right in the anglo legal tradition, which is the foundation for US law. It was similarly codified (but by no means originated) in the English Bill of Rights (with more classist limitations imposed upon it)

        Except, of course, for all the colonies, white and not, where people were given no such right, but carry on.

        Also, I thought the US was all about freedom from oppressive “anglo” laws? Hm.

        1. PeggyLuWho
          PeggyLuWho March 20, 2013 at 9:58 pm |

          Now, if you were going to say that US Patriots(TM) should stockpile French people in their basements in the event of an oppressive government, I’d call that intellectual consistency.

          I need more Jean Lucs and Pierres. And baguettes. Then I’ll be safe forever.

        2. karak
          karak March 21, 2013 at 7:22 am |

          South America was not fighting the natives. The US policy of head-to-combat was not repeated in most South American nations, it was simply easier to bring disease, some soldiers, kick the shit out of the local infrastructure, and explain to the people they were now the peasants of Senor Rodrigo and they were going to work for him or they were going to die.

          The USAsians, by and large, didn’t see slavery/serfdom as a viable solution, and went for genocide/reservations as the weapon of choice.

          Besides, completely different nation-states colonized Central/South America, North America was a British/French effort and Central/South America was Portuguese and Spanish, who had very different ideas about how to subdue the locals, and the locals used different strategies to fight back.

        3. Alexandra
          Alexandra March 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

          karak, it took the Spanish about a hundred years to subjugate the Inka empire. And the Zapatistas got started less than 20 years ago. Warfare, whether overt or indirect, between European colonists and the many nations and peoples indigenous to the Americas have been going on almost continuously since Columbus.

        4. karak
          karak March 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm |

          The Spanish engaged in warfare; the English-Americans engaged in genocide.

          Well, both engaged in a sprinkling of both, but there’s a reason American is a “white” country and Mexico is not, and that’s because we chased off or murdered all that natives and reclaimed the now-”empty” land. Native resistance narratives don’t even factor into our cultural narrative, even the Revolutionary War was a machination of bitching and politics, not a true bid for freedom like the Haitians and the Mexicans have.

          The dominant cultural US narrative is, “kill the people who dare to stand up to you.” The narrative of many native/mestizo people would be more along the lines of, “keep those crazy bastards from gaining power of you.”

          It’s going to have a different fallout, especially because one is *pro*active and the other is *re*active.

          tl;dr USAsian gun philosophy is from the perspective of the oppressors, South and the Central American from the perspective of the oppressed.

      3. hotpot
        hotpot March 21, 2013 at 2:08 am |

        What you write is true, but I do think you’re going waaaaay too far back here. The modern manifestation of the NRA traces it roots back to not much further than 1977. Prior to that, you would not have seen them within a million miles of advocating for the rights of these abusers. Mostly, it was a professional shooters’ organization focused on hunting and sporting that didn’t involve itself too much in politics. Their reaction to the Gun Control Act of 1968 was to say it was a law that ‘the sportsmen of American can live with.’

        The ‘why’ of the recent radicalization of the gun lobby is fascinating and in some ways mysterious, but I think there’s a deeply understated racial subtext. 93% of the NRA board is white, even though nearly 30 percent of blacks and other minorities own guns. Just look at the racialized reaction Zerlina Maxwell got, according to Caperton’s post last week:

        They told her in disturbing detail what should be done to her; almost all of them referenced her race. One mentioned that if she were thusly attacked, “Maybe then [she'll] understand why white women have to be armed.” Because, goes the implication, rape is different for a black woman; she deserves extra punishment for speaking out.

        Basically the guy is saying if she were violently attacked and killed, then she would understand not why she should be armed (which would be the ‘logical’ follow up), but why white women should be armed. Which makes no sense! Unless your operating assumption is that only white women are raped or attacked, and that black women could only face such violence in a hypothetical. (Which is all especially ironic since Zerlina has been open about being a rape survivor herself) But the point is, if you follow his chain of ‘reasoning’, and there is one no matter how twisted, it ends up like this: When this guy thinks of the so-called law-abiding citizen using a firearm in self-defense, the one using the gun is always white. And the attacker most likely is a POC.

        My theory is this. The 1970s was a time of increasing crime rates. It was when we saw the birth of the Dirty Harry icon, the Charles Bronson, the Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs protecting his ‘castle’ from the foreigners, the Bernie Goetz, the modern, urban or suburban vigilante. The ‘victims’ were always whites, the ‘criminals’ usually black or other POC. In the 1960s, when it was the black panthers who were getting armed and so-called Saturday Night Specials associated with urban (read:black) men were the gun issues of the day, you didn’t see this kind of support for ‘gun rights’. AT ALL. (Even today, in arguments about gun control, the heavy subtext, despite Sandy Hook, is ‘Waaah, why are you punishing us law abiding WHITES for the actions of those GANGS (read: blacks). They’re the criminals!’

        But once the vigilante icon was created, it tapped into the deep frontier mentality that “because” mentions above. The armed white vigilante defending his ‘castle’ against POC invaders (the term invader, rather than intruder, suggests a sort of cross-national assault on sovereignty; the trespasser is not just a burglar but a foreigner, a part of a different civilization) fits in perfectly with the cowboys-and-Indians vision of the armed white settler circling the wagons and defending against marauding bands of ‘Indians’.

        With increasing civil rights for blacks, the invalidation of restrictive covenants and the worst types of segregation, wide scale immigration that has racially diversified the country, and rising crime rates in the 1970s and 1980s, I think a changing America at some level began to once again resemble the wilderness for those who at a subconscious level never fully accepted these changes. For these people, the frontier returned. It came back. The new gun fetishism (which the NRA cultivated and exploited skillfully) exploited these modern late 20th century (and early 21st century) white males’ desire to vicariously associate with what he sees as a racially unique ‘frontiersman’ heritage through the heretofore mundane act of gun ownership. Further vicarious reassociation with his frontier ancestors happens when this ownership is defending in terms of ‘the Second Amendment’ as opposed to merely the right to own a gun, and when they talk of an uprising against a government they see as having become colorblind. In a country where identifying as ‘an American’ no longer implicitly means ‘white’, it is a sort of retreat into the ‘sovereignty of the home, which I will loudly declare my intention to defend with violence’ from identification with an increasingly diverse public space.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 21, 2013 at 5:07 am |

          They told her in disturbing detail what should be done to her; almost all of them referenced her race. One mentioned that if she were thusly attacked, “Maybe then [she'll] understand why white women have to be armed.” Because, goes the implication, rape is different for a black woman; she deserves extra punishment for speaking out.

          I’m sorry, but this isn’t at all the subtext I got; what I see here is “black men constantly want to rape white women, so white women need to be protected; black women aren’t similarly threatened.” Still super racist, and misogynistic, but not the same thing.

        2. Alexandra
          Alexandra March 21, 2013 at 7:52 pm |

          Hah! Yes. One of the weirder ironies of racism and the NRA is that much of the current NRA rhetoric about needing firearms to protect private citizens against the tyrannical excesses of the feds is startlingly similar to the rhetoric of black nationalist movements like the Panthers in the late 1960s/early 1970s. And yet you are far more likely to see people in the NRA talking about the right to self-defense against “criminals” (read: people of color) than doing outreach to communities of color with which they might have common cause.

    2. Emolee
      Emolee March 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

      The problem is that so many people do not recognize people who are abusive to their family members as “violent criminals.”

      1. matlun
        matlun March 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm |

        In many cases, there is certainly truth in that.

        The question is whether that is the case here of if this is more about the NRA being so fanatically against gun control that they will fight against it virtually regardless of circumstance.

        1. Emolee
          Emolee March 20, 2013 at 9:56 pm |

          I think it is some of both.

  4. because
    because March 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm |

    Is there any data backing up the idea that these leads restrictive laws have led to more deaths? The San Mateo anecdote doesn’t show anything without knowing what the stats were before the law went into effect.

    Also if someone is that criminal will they obey a confiscation order?

    Obviously we should try to take weapons, cars, alcohol and other dangerous items from criminals but I’m not sure how effective it will be without locking them up.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan March 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm |

      Also if someone is that criminal will they obey a confiscation order?

      You don’t have to be “that criminal” to smack your girlfriend or wife around. It’s one thing to physically assault an unarmed woman who loves you, it’s another to assault a group of armed police officers. Plenty of abusers are cowards who also care how society perceives them, and wouldn’t necessarily start breaking laws that matter (ie. are enforced by people stronger than they are.)

  5. Henry
    Henry March 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

    If I could find the stats I saw I would repost them, when the DV orders were added to background checks, handgun shootings dropped because pissed off significant others could not run to the store and buy a gun. The same should hold true where we proactively remove guns from abusers. We really did learn everything we need to in kindergarten, if you can’t play nice, you don’t get to keep your toys. That kind of oversimplified logic is something the NRA should latch onto.

    There are numerous cases where abuse victims with access to guns killed their abusers and were tried for murder because they waited for an opportune time to defend themselves. That’s not exactly the outcome we are looking for either.

  6. A4
    A4 March 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm |

    I am disappointed by all of these responses wondering whether we can really be sure that confiscating guns from individuals that the court has ruled are a threat to the well-being of their intimate partner is really an effective measure.

    The benefit to the law is that court-recognized perpetrators of domestic violence have reduced access to guns. The downside is that these people will not have the guns they need to protect themselves from the hegemony of a tyrannical government.

    That is a great tradeoff I think.

    1. PeggyLuWho
      PeggyLuWho March 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm |

      It’s common sense, right? Abusive, violent assholes shouldn’t have easy access to firearms.

      People always say “criminals don’t follow laws so laws don’t work.” You know what, if the law takes one gun out of one abusive partner’s hand, and saves one woman’s life, then that law was worth it.

      I agree; your right to freedom and protection under the law ends where you infringe on another’s. Your ability to protect yourself from a tyrannical government should be hindered if you have tyrannized another person, even if there’s no chance in hell that you were going to kill them. You have nullified the social contract, and your rights are forfeit.

    2. a lawyer
      a lawyer March 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm |

      But the court has NOT “ruled,” in the manner that most people associate with a ruling, or in the manner which is normally required to affect someone’s Constitutional right.

      There’s not a real trial; there aren’t usually lawyers; and in fact the entire thing is often accomplished done “ex parte” which means that it can happen without the defendant knowing (much less knowing, and preparing a defense, and submitting it.)

      I’ve been involved with plenty of restraining orders (I do some victim’s advocacy) and seen many others be issued. Let’s just say that on average the standards for issuing a RO are… pretty lax. They’re sure as hell not even close to the normal legal bases for rulings.

      There are some local divorce attorneys for whom 90%of their clients start seeking ROs after a relatively short time in representation, even though they didn’t seek them before. Strange, right? I don’t want to suggest that they’re all unwarranted, but a RO hearing is a damn sight different from any other trial.

      From an overall outcome perspective I think this is fine: I’m not a huge fan of private gun ownership and I think restraining orders should reasonably fall on the side of caution.

      But legally speaking I think the gun folks have a better position than you might think. And personally speaking I will say that although the overall effect of ROs is positive, they are often misused to gain a litigation advantage. There are downsides as well.

      1. A4
        A4 March 22, 2013 at 10:27 am |

        You fail to make a distinction between temporary ROs, for which this law would not apply, and a full domestic violence order of protection, for which this law would apply.

        1. matlun
          matlun March 22, 2013 at 1:07 pm |

          Which specific law are you talking about?

          If you are only focusing on for example the latest attempt in Washington State, you may be right.

          In general, though, we are indeed discussing gun surrender on temporary orders, and the above is an important part of the discussion. From the NYT article

          Gun-rights groups stress that the subjects of temporary orders have not even had the chance to be heard in court, and that many temporary orders do not become full injunctions. Advocates for domestic violence victims counter that the most dangerous moment is when such orders are first issued, and that the surrender of weapons at this stage may be only temporary.

          The article does go on and discusses how the NRA is opposing gun surrender laws even when they are more limited.

  7. Ronda Bowen
    Ronda Bowen March 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm |

    Eek. I cannot believe this. As someone who has survived domestic violence, it absolutely terrifies me that someone who has abused a partner can get hands on a gun – even moreso, it scares me that people would even advocate for that. :(

    That being said, what about the abusers who don’t wind up with charges against them because the DA drops the charges/doesn’t have enough evidence and those who don’t have a restraining order b/c we all know it’s just a sheet of paper? Personally, I hate guns…I think that they make it too easy to make split second irreversible decisions based on passion in a moment…

  8. rachel
    rachel March 21, 2013 at 4:10 am |

    Just a thought, but you might want to have the subtitle (or whatever it’s called) on the Al Jazeera piece adjusted. It reads: “The right of an abuser to own a gun trumps the right of a victim to walk away with her life, argues Filipovic.” Which is actually the opposite of what you’re arguing.

  9. Datdamwuf
    Datdamwuf March 21, 2013 at 11:30 am |

    Trigger warning.
    When I asked for a divorce my husband attacked me, when police arrived he convinced them I had attacked him (defended myself, he had a mark). Looking back, remembering it I realize it is very likely he set me up. I was given a deferred dismissal and put on probation, he used this to control me. At one point he punched himself in the face in an attempt to get me re-arrested and thrown in jail. I was lucky, he hit himself too hard and his hand was badly bruised. He tormented me for months. Finally, 1 hour after my abuser agreed to go to divorce mediation he walked back into the house with his dead fathers semi auto handgun. He chambered a bullet and stuck it in his mouth. Then he raged at me, gun waving at me, it went on and on with a chambered bullet and his finger on the trigger the entire time. I talked him into unloading the gun which is good, when he went into a new rage he chased me to the car with the gun in his hand.

    I called police and told them what happened, by the time they got there husband was driving drunk, the gun was in the trunk loaded. They gave him a DUI but he convinced them I was lying about the gun (he said/she said the deputy told me). My now ex was never charged with any abuse. I paid an attorney nearly $10K in the process of convincing a judge to grant me a permanent protective order. I managed to get it, I was lucky. Unfortunately, it runs out in May and I’m told it’s going to be hard to renew it because it works…if he had violated it in a violent manner they would renew it. The system is broken.

    Anyhow, my point is that he has no violent criminal record. I’m told this happens often, women get a protective order but they don’t take their abuser to court. Or, as in my case, they are unable to get that justice. I’m sure my case is one where the NRA would foam at the mouth because he cannot have a gun. After all he never did anything wrong…

    1. TomSims
      TomSims March 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm |

      @Datdamwuf

      I agree the system is broken. I hope only the best for you in your current situation. Several years ago a guy I worked with told me of his brother’s situation. His wife wanted a divorce, but he was against it. There was no violence and none threatened, but he kept calling her trying to patch things up. So his wife got a PFA and the police came to my co workers house, as his brother was staying with him, and took not only his hunting rifle but also his brother’s 2 hunting rifles. I can understand the cops taking his but his brother was 100% innocent. But because he was staying with his brother after his wife threw him out, they took all of the rifles in the house. This was years ago and when ever it ran out, they both got their rifles back.

      1. j-dub
        j-dub March 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm |

        I’m a victim support worker and where I live it is VERY difficult to get a protection order without charges being present. Like, high risk of homicide difficult.

        So maaaaybe there was no violence, but I doubt it. And a few unwanted calls does not get a protection order. I’ve had clients that had literally thousands of unwanted texts and calls who couldn’t get a restraining order granted.

        1. Henry
          Henry March 22, 2013 at 5:55 am |

          It’s county by county. In NYC it is easier to get them for repeated harrassing behavior that does not involve threats of violence. But it has to be alot of repeating.

      2. matlun
        matlun March 21, 2013 at 4:14 pm |

        By the way: As harsh as that may feel to the brother, I think it is in principle the right decision.

        The primary idea of these laws is (should be) to temporarily remove the guns so that they are not there “in the heat of the moment”. And then return them after a cooling-off period (assuming lack of more serious circumstances).

        As annoying as it can be to those who would never use violence anyway, in general it seems like a reasonable balance to me.

        1. TomSims
          TomSims March 22, 2013 at 10:53 am |

          @matlun

          This happened years ago and I don’t know every detail, but only what was told to me. And my co worker co operated and never complained. It seemed fine to take his brother’s hunting rifle, but it did seem a bit unfair to take my co worker’s hunting rifles as it appeared to be guilt by simply for being someone’s brother and having him stay temporarily in his house.

          My co worker never complained or thought there was a problem, even though he missed hunting season that year. But it just doesn’t seem right to me.

        2. PeggyLuWho
          PeggyLuWho March 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm |

          It’s not about punishing the brother, or presuming him guilty. It’s about preventing assholes from having access to firearms. I have some personal experience with a situation where someone got hold of a gun that someone else they lived with owned.

  10. matlun
    matlun March 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

    I think it depends on the jurisdiction. I know of some places where getting the temporary order is easy (but the permanent one is harder).

    That being said, only the short “kept calling her trying to patch things up” could be enough even without threat of violence. In fact, if he was insistent and stubborn enough it could have ended up as a stalking case. It all depends on the details…

    1. matlun
      matlun March 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm |

      should have been a response to j-dub March 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    2. PeggyLuWho
      PeggyLuWho March 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm |

      A lot of people want to downplay phone calls, but it can be terrifying when someone insists on calling you repeatedly

    3. TomSims
      TomSims March 22, 2013 at 10:54 am |

      @matlun

      Yeah from what my co worker told, stalking sounds like that may have been the case. It was years ago and I never had all of the details.

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