No one credibly argues that domestic violence isn’t a problem, and a problem in need of fixing. Historically, police left violence within the home to families to work out, outside the legal system. This didn’t work very well, as it just left the victims of domestic violence to get beaten some more until they eventually ended up dead.
Of course, cops had a horse in the race, but then, there has been a significant shift in policy to not just taking domestic abuse very seriously, but a “zero tolerance” approach requiring police to make arrests in every instance, regardless of whether there was significant doubt about who assaulted whom, or whether it would be best, in the exercise of discretion, to give the participants a chance to work it out because destroying the family unit. Except when the perp was a cop, because, well, cops.
Add to this problematic mix the latest round of gun hysteria, and the New York Times has called for closing a “loophole.”
Yet shortcomings in federal and state law allow many domestic abusers to have access to firearms, even after courts have determined that the abusers pose a threat to their partners.
Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of any felony, or of misdemeanor domestic violence against a spouse, from owning a gun. People subject to a domestic violence restraining order issued after a hearing (not a temporary order issued before a hearing can take place) are also prohibited from owning guns. But people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors against partners with whom they never lived are not prohibited from owning guns under federal law, nor are those convicted of misdemeanor stalking.
Before getting to the newest level of concern, let’s not leap over the depth of the current prohibition. Restraining orders are handed out like candy by courts, where judges make certain that if any guy shoots his domestic partner, it’s not going to put their face on the front page of the New York Post as the Worst Judge Ever.
These aren’t real hearings, with testimony and evidence, but 10 second shams, where a prosecutor makes generic allegations of potential future harm, the defense lawyer mumbles, “humina, humina,” because it’s impossible to prove that future speculated bad things could never happen, and the judge signs the restraining order. What’s the big deal? So a guy’s guns get taken away. We hate guns anyway, right?
Having achieved this accomplishment, however, the push is on to reach the next level. This is not the slippery slope, because nobody is sliding. They’re being pushed, and pushed hard.
The generic concept of “domestic abuse” has gone the way of rape and sexual assault, a vague slur of amorphous violent conduct in the mind of the public. And much like these words that have become untethered from definition, its mere mention is sufficient to raise cries of boyfriends killing girlfriends and psycho stalkers, even when the actual conduct involved is nothing more than an unwanted phone call or, on occasion, a woman striking a man and the man defending himself from attack.
Allegations are sometimes used to gain advantage in divorce and custody proceedings, or to “teach a man a lesson.” How often this happens is subject to the same claims as false rape allegations, and is thus subject to vehement denial that it’s a real problem. But to the guys who are victimized by false allegations, the problem is very real.
That the new thrust is directed toward misdemeanors, toward conduct involving people who don’t live in the same household, seeks to prey upon the pejorative language of “domestic violence” when neither word may apply. But by pushing for an overarching change to strip weapons based upon scary words, the New York Times plays to our worst fears.
But who is going to stand up for domestic abusers? Throw out a few anecdotes about girlfriends killed and, boom, it’s an intolerable problem. What right-thinking person would argue that a guy is entitled to keep his gun and kill his girlfriend with it? That’s crazy.
Add to the mix that the countervailing interest, the right to possess a gun, is not merely of
low no value, but one that the New York Times firmly believes shouldn’t exist, and there is no reason in the world to worry one’s pretty head about the evisceration of Second Amendment rights. No one at the Times would loose a moment’s sleep if the Second Amendment disappeared, because guns are evil and they hate them. Certainly, there is nothing about the right to keep and bear arms that would justify allowing anyone who poses any potential threat whatsoever to keep their weapon. No woman should ever risk harm at the end of a gun.
There is that “bundle of rights” problem, that contention that respect for the rights the New York Times favors requires the same respect for the rights it doesn’t, but it takes thought to appreciate the principle that either we adhere to the Constitution or we don’t. And the New York Times is adept at playing the fear and tear card to preclude anything remotely resembling thought or principle, when it serves its goals.
Some states, like California and Connecticut, allow police to confiscate guns from someone who is determined by a court to be a threat to a partner, even if a domestic violence restraining order is not in place.
State and federal lawmakers need to follow the example of states that have closed loopholes and enacted surrender laws to prevent the dangerous from possessing deadly weapons.
If, upon mere allegation of anything remotely characterized as domestic violence, one constitutional right can be lost, so too can others. When it comes to guns, at least those who feel strongly about the Second Amendment will fight against this push. Chances aren’t good that they will care a whole lot if the constitutional right at risk is under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth. And once we’re busy hating and fearing anyone accused of domestic abuse, why would we feel any differently about the gun loophole than those other loopholes we refer to as constitutional rights?