Gun Control Debate: Domestic Violence Victims Are Not Protected By Current Gun Laws


After tragedies in places like Columbine, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut issues surrounding Second Amendment rights have become a big part of our national discourse. From constitutional interpretations to mental health, factors contributing to gun violence are coming out of the woodwork.

But between the retroactive "should have" and the seemingly proactive conversations we've been having, other issues relating to gun laws slip under the radar. While citizens and politicians debate what the founding fathers might have meant, victims of domestic violence, among others, need an interpretation that leaves room for their safety.

A recent New York Times article shines light on various cases of protective orders in the state of Washington and other states that do not have "surrender laws." Surrender laws require anyone with a protective order against them to temporarily relinquish their firearms. They range from state to state in how strict the law is, but each have degrees of temporary removal of guns in domestic violence cases.

Like Washington, many have no surrender law at all.

The article discusses three cases of domestic violence with protective orders and their correlation with gun-related intimate partner homicide. According to the article, the women took out protective orders against their partners for abusive or violent behavior. In each of their complaints, the women noted that their partners had guns or threatened them with a gun.

In all three cases the women ended up shot to death within weeks. 

The mother of a slain Oklahoma woman, Barbara Dye, recalls attempting to get the weapons out of her son-in-law's hands. "We kept telling [the police], ‘He’s got all of these there nothing you can do?'”

Although three cases may not seem like grounds to challenge a constitutional amendment, there is a scary gap in between assuring Second Amendment rights and ensuring a domestic violence victim's right to safety.

According to a recent study by the Violence Policy Center (VPC), "In 2010, there were 1,800 females murdered by males." The report specifies that "1,017 of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers."

Suddenly, our three cases seem a lot more wide-spread.

Gun-supporters ascribe an immunity to the Second Amendment that is not even granted to the First Amendment. (See: hate speech.). Gun rights activists seem to use a fallacious "slippery slope" argument in assuming that by shaping and reasonably limiting the Second Amendment, we are undermining altogether its principal purpose. Not to mention that the changes and limitations might save the lives of the citizens to whom these rights belong. 

The VPC paper cited a federal study to assert, "female intimate partners are more likely to be murdered with a firearm than all other means combined" (emphasis added). The same study concluded that “the figures demonstrate the importance of reducing access to firearms in households affected by IPV [intimate partner violence]."

Another common claim of pro-gun arguments is, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun."

The VPC article sites another study that concluded the contrary: "Females living with a gun in the home were nearly three times more likely to be murdered than females with no gun in the home." And in a final swoop, that "women who were murdered were more likely, not less likely, to have purchased a handgun in the three years prior to their deaths," according to another study.

The Times article also discussed what it called "A System That's Working," where it highlights laws in states like California that apply strict surrender laws: "Anyone served with a temporary protective order has 24 hours to turn over any weapons to local law enforcement or sell them to a licensed gun dealer."

In San Mateo County, where a similarly strict law is in place, head of the major crimes unit, Sgt. Linda Gibbons, says "We have not had a firearm-related domestic violence homicide in the last three years."

Understanding the consequences of having slight restrictions on who can keep a firearm, and under what circumstances, can go a long way.

But with an end-all, impenetrable Second Amendment, it's hard to have a rational conversation. When having a right to a gun surpasses a person's right to live and live safely, the conversation is not only polarized, it's on different planes. Be it women, men, or in Newtown's case, children, as a country we should start somewhere to stop these killings from becoming, literally, a household thing. 

Besides, it's a fallacious and misleading claim that the only two options we have as a society are infringing or upholding rights.

Owning a gun is a constitutional right, yes. But seeing as there are 27 amendments (see: changes), I'd say the United States is no stranger to updating and reforming its laws to reflect a "more perfect union." Limitations and restricted access to firearms in specific cases can secure our rights, and truly underscore our freedoms.