In previous articles, I have emphasized the fact that American gun prohibitionists have frequently shifted their legislative goalposts in the post-Newtown era. After their calls for banning modern rifles and magazines were rebuffed at the federal level (along with most states), they shifted their attention to an equally doomed ‘universal background check’ push. Now, it seems gun control advocates have fixated on the Second Amendment rights of accused domestic abusers.
Two months ago, Bloomberg’s gun control front, Everytown for Gun Safety, released a video that apparently was supposed to emphasize that women need gun control to protect them from irrational, violent partners. Surprisingly, the video made an even better case for female gun ownership as was recognized by even the popular women’s daytime show, The View. Last week, Gabby Giffords’ gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, released a similarly themed spot titled “Stalker Gap”. In an apparent attempt to take the issue a step further (see lower) than Everytown did in July, Giffords’ intense (distasteful) video lays the murder of a young Arizona woman at the feet of aspiring Arizona representative, Martha McSally (video). In fact, the video takes the issue so far that it has been roundly condemned by major media outlets within Arizona and throughout the nation. The backlash has been so unanimous that Giffords’ group has pulled the ad from television outlets, but it remains on YouTube with a paltry 21,000 views as of 9/23 (for reference, Colion Noir’s Ray Rice video from last week has over 44,000 views).
While I am very critical of these groups and their videos, I do not want to undermine the gravity of domestic violence. Every party to the debate can agree that domestic violence is a very real issue that all too often produces tragic results. According to documentation from the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, between 63 and 74% of domestic violence charges result in a conviction. Compared to other types of charges, this is an impressive success rate, but it also means that as many as 37% of charges are either unsupported or blatantly false.
According to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9), all convicted domestic offenders are prohibited from possessing a firearm. This has been a part of Federal Law since 1997 and it means that all convicted domestic abusers are prohibited persons within the NICS background check system. Because all licensed firearms dealers must use this system for all transactions, convicted abusers can only obtain their firearms through already illegal means.
Groups such as Everytown would like to see this ban (or a ‘timeout’) extended to those accused of domestic abuse. They argue that accused domestic offenders pose an equal threat to those who have been convicted and that the lengthy legal process to obtain a conviction leaves women vulnerable in the meantime. While such claims might have substance, it is important to recognize that all Americans have a right to due process before the law. Such proposals also inherently assume guilt prior to an actual conviction. If the concern is that the accused will seek to harm their accusers, why stop at firearms? The US Supreme Court in 2008’s DC v Heller held that the Second Amendment is in no way subordinate to any other Constitutional right, a ruling which was reinforced at the appellate level in Peruta v. San Diego earlier this year. In light of these cases, it would be no more egregious constitutionally to lock them up without informing them of the charges against them.
As I previously stated, why stop at guns? Given that most domestic offenders are males who could easily overpower their accusers, why not save everyone time and lock them up without a trial? Are they not just as large a threat to the abused when armed with a knife or bat? Cornered inside the home, the abused are frequently at the mercy of their abusers. With this consideration in mind, it seems more important that women who feel threatened have access to firearms as a means to defend themselves from violent partners or stalkers. While the majority of domestic violence cases do result in convictions, we cannot forget the ever important fact that we all are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Wrongfully stripping as many as 37% of accused domestic offenders of their constitutional rights sets a potentially dangerous precedent.
The inconsistency of gun prohibitionists on this issue has been amplified by their lack of outrage towards the handling of Ray Rice’s (non)trial. In Rice, we have a rare example of a domestic offender whose actions were captured clearly on camera. Rather than force the NFL star to appear at a trial, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain allowed Rice to enter a pre-trial intervention program. All the while, McClain denied the same privileges (until today) to single mother-of-three, Shaneen Allen, who was arrested for carrying a concealed handgun in New Jersey last October. The hypocrisy is astounding. Rice, who clearly battered his now-wife, Jennay, was allowed to forgo a trial while Shaneen Allen, who had been robbed twice before, was dragged through almost a year of hell for being unaware that her Pennsylvania carry license was not valid in New Jersey. We are told that the NRA is a party to the “war on women”, despite the fact that they have repeatedly come to Allen’s defense and have emphasized self-defense for women. At the same time, a man who actually battered a woman is let off easy and no one has ever accused Prosecutor Jim McClain of undermining women’s safety.
While a little more consistency from gun control groups might be nice, I think we all know that is not going to happen. These people are frankly more obsessed with firearms than those of us who actually own them. We should not be surprised that this would cause them to miss opportunities to truly help victims of domestic violence through awareness programs, self-defense training, and smarter prosecution of domestic violence cases.
Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence: http://ccadv.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/CCADV-CCASA-Fact-Sheet-on-Myth-of-False-Allegations_updated-2.21.14.pdf