Firearms and domestic violence
The New York Times said the following in an editorial:
A man abuses and threatens his ex-wife. She tells a judge that she is frightened and that he is armed. The court orders him to stay away from her. Should it also order him to give up his guns?
Of course it should. If a protective order is to mean anything, the court must do all that it reasonably can do to keep a vulnerable person from becoming a homicide statistic.
An article by Michael Luo in The Times on Monday examined the threadbare web of protection for victims of domestic violence in a country overrun with guns. While there is a federal law that forbids most people subject to permanent protective orders to buy or own firearms, it was invoked fewer than 50 times by prosecutors last year. That leaves to the states the job of imposing meaningful laws to separate domestic abusers from their guns.
Most states are failing at that job. While a handful have laws requiring judges to order the surrender of guns when issuing any protection order, even temporary orders, most states do not go nearly that far. When legislators try to tighten the laws, they face the wrath of the National Rifle Association, whose relentless lobbying usually manages to kill or cripple such bills. Even modest “cooling off” laws — allowing sheriffs to confiscate weapons temporarily for the first, most volatile days of a divorce action or separation — have failed.
The NRA’s blind defense of individuals’ gun rights has left a catastrophic toll. Stricter laws could help stem killings in domestic-violence cases. But legislatures would have to place prudent safety measures over Second Amendment absolutism. There is evidence that it would work: a study in the journal Injury Prevention in 2010 examined so-called intimate-partner homicides in 46 of the country’s largest cities from 1979 to 2003 and found that where state laws restricted gun access to people under domestic-violence restraining orders, the risk of such killings was reduced by 19 percent.
Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., recently introduced a bill to toughen the federal law to cover temporary protective orders and current or former “dating partners,” not just spouses. Congress should pass it, and states should reinforce it with their own laws, requiring judges to act when a person’s safety is at obvious risk from an ex-partner with a gun.