Guns, guns, guns. It’s difficult to turn on the news or scan the headlines of the morning paper without coming across yet another tangential argument about guns in our society.
Well, here’s one more.
It starts out with a very welcome bit of news from a 2010 Department of Justice report which states that violent crime, on the decline for years, has reached a 40 year low. Good news for sure, even if experts cannot seem to agree on the reason.
But it’s not all good news. According to Kelly Star, a member of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV), statistics on intimate partner homicides have remained steady, despite the falling numbers in the national homicide rate.
Star was interviewed on NBC’s Rock Center for a story about the correlation between gun ownership and domestic violence homicide. It was a stark reminder of the stakes in the country’s diverging discussion about firearms in society.
The topic is the confiscation of guns from alleged domestic abusers, and Star is quick to point out that domestic violence is most likely in the interim following the service of a protection order. If the abuser has access to firearms during that period, the domestic violence victim is five times as likely to die.
That is a chilling piece of information that, nevertheless, many choose to misunderstand. For those looking for a more simplistic explanation, consider this:
DV order + Gun = high probability of death
It does not take a math whiz to figure out that removing the gun from this equation will have an impact. Easier said than done, of course.
Though federal law already requires that individuals served with DV protections orders surrender their firearms, it should surprise no one that few do so voluntarily. On top of that, police departments rarely make a point of confiscating firearms.
Why? Blame the ever present fear of the two L’s: liability and litigation. Which brings us right back to the ponderous question of gun rights.
Gun rights advocates and the NRA (who refused to speak on the record to NBC) adamantly oppose the removal of firearms without due process. This is a disingenuous claim given the hefty percentage of alleged abusers who receive protection orders after being arrested for domestic violence crimes. In many cases, judges are often the ones handing down protection orders to the abusers facing them in court.
So where does one draw the line? Should domestic violence suspects, especially those who have crossed the legal threshold of arrest, have access to their guns? Does the 2nd Amendment trump a mountain of fatal statistics?
In the final segment of the show, an NBC reporter follows a San Mateo County Sheriff’s detective confiscating the firearms of alleged abusers. The officer, who is convinced this dangerous and controversial task (funded by a federal grant) saves lives, points out that in his jurisdiction there has not been a domestic violence homicide in over three years.
That is a compelling statistic.
Simple math already demonstrates that when abusers relinquish their guns, the body count drops. Conversely, it means that there are people out there who will be dead at some indeterminate date in the future because the 2nd Amendment rights of their abusers were held to be more important than the risk to the lives of their victims.
If everyone, including gun rights advocates, would acknowledge this, then perhaps the bleak statistics of domestic violence homicide would someday match the downward trend of violent crime.
It is something to hope for.