Yesterday, something happened in the Supreme Court chambers that had not happened in 10 years. Justice Clarence Thomas spoke. The case before the Court involved 2 men who had been charged with domestic violence misdemeanors and their gun rights. From the article:
“Can you give me another area [of law] where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?” Thomas asked Eisenstein, who was arguing that a federal ban on gun ownership for people who are convicted of low-level domestic violence offenses at the state level should apply if the offense was committed “recklessly.”
A strange silence fell over the courtroom. For what seemed like five minutes straight, and in the course of no less than 10 questions, Thomas really wanted to get to the bottom of whether the federal gun prohibition for domestic violence violators — known as the Lautenberg Amendment — infringed on a fundamental right.
He wanted to know “how long” the suspension of Second Amendment rights was for people prohibited under federal law to possess firearms, and he pressed Eisenstein to name any other legal analog where the federal government could permanently curtail constitutional rights following a conviction for an unrelated offense.
In this case, the idea of whether someone who is prohibited from having a gun because prior domestic abuse charges, can get their gun rights back. Let’s take a look:
If the court sides with the two men, it’s possible that only some types of domestic violence convictions would result in abusers losing their gun rights.
That would be a dangerous scenario, according to the many anti-violence organizations that filed friend-of-the-court briefs. Research shows that if an abuser has access to a gun, victims are five times more likely to be killed. A recent Associated Press analysis found that an average of 760 Americans were killed with guns annually by intimate partners, though that is likely an undercount. More than 80 percent of the victims were women.
It also appears to go against the spirit of the Lautenberg Amendment, which was enacted to make sure that all domestic abusers — whether convicted of felonies or misdemeanors — can’t own guns.
In real life, domestic abusers accused of a misdemeanor or felony, can’t buy or own guns. There is a reason for that, as explained above. But more, just last week, one of the 4 mass shootings (Kansas) that happened in our country was due to a domestic abuser who gained access to guns he should not have had and could not legally have.:
The suspect in the Hesston, Kansas, shooting rampage amassed an extensive criminal record that prohibited him from legally owning or purchasing a gun. Cedric Ford, 38, had felony convictions in his home state of Florida for dealing cocaine, as well as burglary, grand theft, and illegal possession of a gun by a felon. Any of these convictions would have blocked him from passing a background check.
We have lax gun laws in our country that make it easy for people like this shooter to get guns from other than licensed dealers where they would be prohibited. So how did this guy manage to get his guns? An order for protection had been filed against him hours before he went on a shooting rampage:
On Thursday, at 3:30 p.m., less than two hours before the killing began, the Harvey County sheriff’s office located Ford at the Excel plant and served him with a temporary protection from abuse order. The petition, first obtained by the Wichita Eagle, had been filed on February 5 by Ford’s girlfriend, with whom he shared a home. On that day, according to her, the two had been “verbally fighting,” before it “became physical.”
And what’s worse, a former girlfriend, who the shooter had threatened ,gave his guns back to him knowing he was a felon who couldn’t own guns. She has been charged as she should be:
It would have proven difficult for Ford to purchase the firearms on his own, given his criminal record.The Post reports that the two firearms Ford used in the attack—a .223-caliber assault rifle and a pistol—had been given to him by a friend named Sarah Hopkins. Hopkins, 28, told authorities that she and Ford had dated and had been living in nearby Newton up until July, when she moved out. She reportedly returned the guns to Ford after he had threatened her.
Prosecutors have since charged Hopkins with one count of knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon. An affidavit has revealed that Hopkins purchased both firearms: The semiautomatic rifle Zastava Serbia, and a Glock semiautomatic handgun, according to The Post.
She was law abiding until suddenly she wasn’t.
3 people are dead and 6 are left wounded because a man who shouldn’t have had guns got them anyway. An order for protection often makes men like this even more angry so sometimes women are reluctant to file that order out of fear of retribution. Gun rights are so sacred and guns are apparently so necessary to these people that the very idea that they can’t have what they want and “need” is enough to send them on a rampage.
And we have regular rampages in our country because of angry men with guns. Take the one that happened in an Ohio church where the brother of a minister came to church with his gun and shot and killed his own brother. There had been a 5 year long dispute over money and inheritance but no one knows why the man decided to shoot his brother now.
And what does it matter? Another innocent American is dead in a domestic dispute involving 2 brothers. Every day 32 American citizens die from gunshot injuries due to homicide. Many more are suicides. Some are “accidental ” deaths. They add up to 90 a day! Most are avoidable.
Women in America are 11 times more at risk for dying from firearms injuries than in other developed countries. And way too often, domestic shootings involve other innocent people like the one of the other recent mass shootings in the state of Washington leaving 5 dead. And in a week of deadly shootings, a young woman police officer was shot and killed in a domestic dispute in Virginia. Responding to domestic disputes is very dangerous for officers.
So if Justice Thomas truly believes that domestic abusers should get their guns and their gun rights back because….. rights, he is espousing the view of a small group of gun rights extremists who think that anyone and everyone should have guns and gun rights. That kind of thinking is why we have more violent gun deaths than any other democratized countries not at war.
It’s a national tragedy.
In my last post, I wrote about meeting with Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly and having a good discussion about how we can work together for the common good and for common sense to save lives. We can. But we haven’t. I also wrote about the latest series of mass shootings affecting communities all over America. There have been more since.
Last Sunday my community came together in an inspirational and educational afternoon of faith communities and the response of the faith communities to gun violence. We heard the poignant and sad stories of victims- one whose sister was shot 3 times in the back of the head as she was literally trying to go out the door of her marriage. Another, a son who was having some mental problems and “solved” them by buying a gun and shooting himself. A third- a father who spoke of the kidnapping, rape and murder of his (then) 19 year old daughter. I also told my story of a sister shot and killed in an argument during a contentious and protracted divorce.
Faith leaders spoke of why their congregations should be involved from a moral and values perspective. Saving lives and preventing gun violence is about our values as a country. We may have a second amendment and laws, which we also discussed, but we do also have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which is taken from too many.
Deciding what we are going to do about our nation’s public health and safety gun violence epidemic is key to what kind of country we are. We are in the midst of ugly political elections where offensive and ugly remarks are being hurled around like footballs. Some of the hateful rhetoric is downright frightening. Racist and misogynistic comments, anti-immigrant remarks and sentiment, Obama derangement syndrome, name calling and fomenting fear and paranoia with lies is just not who we are. One candidate, namely Donald Trump, is flirting with white supremacist groups and other extremist groups.It promotes the idea of fear of others and the fact that we need to protect ourselves from our friends and neighbors and people who are not “like” them.
I had an opportunity to meet with Chelsea Clinton yesterday. I thanked her mother for raising the issue of gun violence in this Presidential election. It is the first time there has been serious discussion about an important unaddressed issue. Candidates have been afraid to raise it for fear of the opposition. What kind of democracy is it when we are afraid of the single issue lobby corporate gun lobby who bully and threaten candidates with ugly ads and lies about gun confiscation and taking away rights?
There is no reason why Americans should live with violent domestic abuse. It’s time for a change. It’s time to demand that change. It’s past time to do something about the victims and survivors of gun violence. Putting rights before saving lives is inexcusable and shameful.
We are better than this.