Two new gun violence prevention organizations, Prosecutors Against Gun Violence and The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, have just produced a new report that deserves the widest possible distribution and discussion. Entitled Firearm Removal/Retrieval in Cases of Domestic Violence, the report not only highlights the degree to which gun access makes domestic violence so much more violent and deadly, but also presents case studies on removal/retrieval strategies that are currently employed in different states.
Leaving aside for a moment the report's content, there is one other significant reason why this is such an important and valuable report. Because for the first time we have an approach to gun violence which brings together all the major GVP stakeholders: law enforcement, legal, prosecutorial, public health, non-profit, GVP advocacy -- I hope I'm not leaving anyone out. It's a very impressive list.
To quote the report: "Guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination." The report cites the fact that there is a five-fold increase in deaths when either person (usually a man) in a domestic dispute has access to a gun. If the report had given all the scholarly citations which exist to support this statement, we could spend lots of time scrolling down to get to the rest of the text. NRA nonsense to the contrary (see below), what happens when a gun is part of an argument between domestic partners is an indisputable fact.
Guns can be taken away from persons engaged in domestic disputes either through a Court action or by law enforcement called to the scene of the dispute itself. The fact that 32 states do not have any statutes authorizing on-scene seizures of weapons is, to my mind, a remarkable failure of government to fulfill its 'compelling interest' to keep communities safe. Because no matter how strong or effective a Court-ordered removal/retrieval action happens to be, there will always be some gap in time between when the dispute occurs and when a gun has to be given up. The report notes that half the women killed by intimate partners had contact with the criminal justice system related to the dispute within one year prior to their deaths. But when the cops show up at the front door because someone calls them and says that there's a big fight going on in the apartment down the hall, does this type of incident, which happens all the time, count as 'contact' with criminal justice? I have my doubts.
The part of the report that I find most disconcerting are the maps which show what types of removal strategies are sanctioned by state laws. Typical of state gun laws, it's a hodge-podge of statutes, with a few states requiring gun removal after the issuance of an order, other states granting implicit removal authority, but many states making no mention of gun removals at all. In this third group, for example, we find Texas, Missouri, Louisiana and Georgia, which just happen to be four states whose overall gun violence rates far exceed the national average. Any chance there's a connection?
The NRA will tell you there's no connection at all. In fact, in their obsessive attempts to find new markets, Gun Nation has been trying to convince women, in particular, to defend themselves with guns. The latest screed in this respect comes from that idiotic loudmouth Dana Loesch, who has just put out another video claiming that gun control is the 'real war against women' because only a gun can equalize the physical differences between women and men.
I want to end with a slight editorial which in no way detracts from the value and importance of this report. I have always believed that the term 'domestic violence' is perhaps too narrow to really capture and understand what gun violence is all about. Perhaps 80 percent of all gun homicides and assaults involve persons who knew each other and most of the perpetrators had histories of violence before the attack occurred. Don't we need to find some way to take the guns away from them?