Let’s stop pretending that gun violence is all about mental health. I know. If feels good to say that only the “crazies” commit violence, especially the worst kind of violence. It’s all about the other. But the fact is, over half of all mass shootings are related to domestic violence. And the vast majority of violence committed in the United States is a result of escalating arguments or as a part of a cycle of violence. Maybe we should start saying that losing one’s temper is a deficiency of mental health?
However, some facets of gun violence ought to have common ground. For example: Stalkers and domestic abusers should not be allowed to buy or possess guns. And how about: Those subject to temporary restraining orders and permanent restraining orders should not be allowed to buy or possess guns.
Sounds reasonable? I think so. Most people think so. Including a wide majority of Texans. Yes, really.
So why do so few states have comprehensive regulations on this issue? And why is federal law so spotty and weak? If I were feeling generous, I’d say state legislators and Congress figured those laws were already there because it’s so darn obvious that someone with violent and obsessive behavior shouldn’t get a hold of firearms.
But I’m not feeling generous lately. I also don’t want to crawl down the rabbit hole of paranoid, fearful, greedy reasons for inaction. And the domestic violence related tragedies keep piling up. And this is nothing new.
Instead, there is current federal legislation that everyone can urge Senators and Congressional Representatives to co-sponsor and actively support.
In the SENATE there are two bills that help tighten current laws where partner violence and guns intersect.
Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) has S. 1290. This is a bill that amends the definition of “intimate partner” to include abusive dating partners and stalkers so they can’t purchase or possess guns. Some backlash has said “Oh come on! Stalking?” But those who know the cycle of violence understand that stalking is rarely the end point; it’s usually the beginning. And we’ve had enough sacrificial lambs in the name of “benefit of the doubt.” According to Congress.gov, S. 1290 has just one co-sponsor.
Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) has S. 2483 which bars dating partner abusers and those with temporary restraining orders from buying or possessing guns. Now, I know — you’re probably saying DUH! but yeah, this is a gap in current law. Reasoning? TROs can be tricky because of the brief duration (usually 14 days), but depressingly consistent research shows that the time between when a victim of domestic abuse leaves a situation and gets an order of protection or restraining order is some of the most dangerous. The removal of firearms during a TRO actually does mean life or death. Here is some background to Senator Blumenthal’s bill.
In the loony & cartoony Congressional House, there are a few pieces of incredibly sane legislation awaiting action. Representative Capps (D-CA) has introduced H.R. 1177, which mirrors Senators Klobuchar and Blumenthal’s bills by barring dating partner abusers and those subject to TROs from buying and possessing guns.
Representative Hahn (D-CA) has introduced H.R. 1914 which bars misdemeanant stalkers from buying and possessing guns. Remember that pesky cycle of violence!
Of particular interest to New Jersey is H.R. 3566. This bill provides incentives for states to require surrender of firearms. While NJ has state laws that cover most of the above issues (we are in a minority of states), one gap is in the official methods of seizure of firearms from those abusers who should not possess them. (See page 13 for NJ information.)
So, get to it. Contact your elected representatives, no matter if they are Democrats or Republicans or Independents or whatever. Let them know that 46 American women shot to death by intimate partners each month is unacceptable. Let them know that the intimidation and threats and control made easier and more deadly by access to firearms is unacceptable.
Additional information from Center for American Progress with focus on several states.