Every time I find one of these cases, I'm going to post this cartoon:
Zendo Deb of TFS Magnum has another story of how a restraining order failed to protect someone. It didn't keep her attacker away, it didn't disarm her attacker, and in addition, her presence in a "gun free zone" didn't prevent her killer from bringing a gun anyway. I'm going to comment on the entire piece, though:
Protect victims of violence with steel, not paperAnother case of the Law of Unintended Consequences? Hard to say. Does having one's firearms confiscated and right to arms abridged contribute to the anger? I don't know. Hard to say. But a 26% increase is significant.
Restraining orders aren't enough to keep battered spouses safe
J.E. STONE PARKER AND F. PAUL VALONE
Special to the Observer
Shennell McKendall did everything "by the book." She moved out, sought police protection and a restraining order against her abusive husband, had him arrested when he violated the order ... and ended up dead. Out on bail yet again, Randy McKendall drove up as she walked to work at UNC Hospital. Jumping from his truck, he shot her, then killed himself.
What distinguishes the calamity is not perpetration of a murder/suicide by an abuser under a restraining order (Polk County resident Gary Rose killed his wife and himself just weeks later), but rather the utter failure of a law passed to prevent such things.
Sponsored by Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, the 2003 Homicide Prevention Act purports to seize firearms from abusers under protective orders. Far from preventing homicide, however, its advocates' own Web site reveals that in the year following implementation, it shepherded not only a 26 percent increase in domestic homicide, but a 40 percent increase in murder/suicide.
The law's "lesser" failures include leaving scores of victims unprotected. Allegedly intended to stop spousal murders by soldiers returning from Afghanistan, Rand's bill ultimately exempted military and police abusers from many restrictions.Just like many "gun control" laws exempt law enforcement officers, creating a "priviledged class."
Nor has it disarmed abusers. Requiring compliance from batterers who routinely flout trivialities like restraining orders, gun seizures fail when defendants elude them or obtain guns later.Thus the "got a tissue?" question.
Even when confiscations succeed, the problem remains: Firearms are used less often in domestic homicides (57 percent) than in others (75 percent). Because abusers -- 91 percent of whom are male -- typically kill smaller, physically weaker partners, popular weapons include blunt objects, knives and bare hands.Now that was a statistic I was unaware of, but it makes sense.
Worst of all, the explosion in murder/suicide suggests that gun confiscations may actually spark confrontations by perpetrators already "on the edge." Fully 20 percent of North Carolina's domestic murderers kill themselves. And protective orders, gun seizures or -- in McKendall's case -- campus gun prohibitions don't deter suicidal killers.So the authors do believe that the law aggravates the problem. Interesting.
Now consider Anson County resident Joy Burgess, whose estranged husband parked a mile from her house, cut her phone line, and while she and her 6-year-old daughter slept, broke down her door with a shovel. Husband Brian Lee Gathings had a long history of domestic violence. Jailed five times for assault by pointing a gun, assault on a female, domestic criminal trespass and telephone harassment, he was again out on $15,000 bail. Said Joy's mother, "The restraining order was not worth the paper it was written on."Zendo Deb links to a story about Joy Burgess, if you want to read it.
Fortunately, however, in protecting herself Joy chose steel instead of paper: In what police ruled justifiable self-defense, she shot her attacker.
Says domestic violence expert Beth Morraco, "Shennell McKendall did everything society tells battered women to do to keep themselves safe. She had the support of her family, a local domestic violence agency, an attorney, the District Court, and sheriff's department, all of whom actively sought to protect her."And you must be willing to do so.
True enough. But when gun control activist Lisa Price, who lobbied for the Homicide Prevention Act, laments that Shennell "did all she could to protect herself," she ignores the Burgess lesson: Police have neither the ability nor, as courts have ruled, the obligation to protect you. When restraining orders fail, you must protect yourself.
For 10 years, North Carolina's concealed handgun law has empowered citizens to do precisely that. Defying naysayers' predictions of traffic light shootouts, permit-holders have been overwhelmingly law-abiding. Of 263,102 permit applications, only 727 (0.28 percent) have been revoked, typically for reasons unrelated to firearms.As opposed to what percentage of N.C. police officers fired or jailed for illegal acts in the same period, I wonder?
Indeed, despite opposing concealed handguns, Price's own lobbyist admitted to a House committee that "the fears that this concealed carry law would put bloodshed in the streets were way overblown the concealed carry law in North Carolina is a good law."But here's a problem: What if the offending spouse files a restraining order against his wife? FEDERAL LAW is what is supposed to disarm the restrainee. It prevents someone from purchasing a firearm from a dealer, and in North Carolina you have to get a permit to buy a handgun, even from a private party. So who will this ensure remains disarmed? The woman at risk, who will be trying to jump through all the proper legal hoops, will it not? While the violent husband won't give a damn, and can still bludgeon or slash his wife to death because she won't have (legal) access to a firearm.
Beyond rendering victims dependent on inadequate protection from others, let's empower them to defend themselves. Sponsored by Reps. Mark Hilton, R-Catawba, and Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus, H.B. 1311, the Domestic Violence Victim Empowerment Act will require sheriffs to expedite concealed handgun permits for applicants protected by restraining orders, and require judges to inform victims of their right to permits.
Whether domestic violence organizations support the bill depends on whether they prefer restricting guns or protecting victims. But when detractors conjure dire images of guns in unstable households, recall that because applicants get permits only upon issuance of restraining orders, abusers will already be out of the home. Nor can just anyone get a permit: Applicants will undergo criminal background checks and training just as they do now.I think J.E. Stone Parker and F. Paul Valone need to do something about 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8)(C)(ii) - the law that Timothy Joe Emerson was convicted under after he purchased a handgun while under a restraining order. That one trumps any N.C. STATE law, but still provides only a gossamer tissue of protection for a woman at risk.
Some abusers will be deterred by armed victims, some won't. But the next time a flimsy document "not worth the paper it's written on" fails to prevent murder, maybe a pound of steel will.
J.E. Stone Parker, MD, is director of research for Rights Watch International and a physician in Lumberton. F. Paul Valone is a professional pilot and president of Grass Roots North Carolina. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 10684, Raleigh, NC 27605.