In a past life I was a state child protection worker with a responsibility for investigating child abuse and sometimes taking children into protective care. It was often a hard and ugly job. Many of our cases necessarily involved police and law enforcement agencies, and as a part of the job I often was called out to ride along with officers when they responded to calls alleging dangerous circumstances in the home, such as the manufacture of drugs, or violence and unsafe conditions. I know from my personal involvement in those experiences that there is absolutely nothing that most law enforcement officers fear more than incidents of domestic abuse.
Violence in the home is often extreme. One partner feels ownership of the other, and/or there is a fear of one partner leaving and taking the children. Threats are made regarding the kids, personal property, and even the safety of family pets. ("If you leave I'll kill your dog!") Often alcohol or other drugs have lowered inhibitions and made the conflict even more intense. A policeman (or a social worker) knocking at the door of a home where abuse is part of the household dynamic never knows exactly what he or she will encounter.
Entering an abusive home is a very dangerous proposition.
Congress passed a law in 1996 whose aim was to reduce the level of carnage in domestic violence situations. That law, commonly known as the "Lautenberg Amendment" prohibits persons who have been convicted of domestic abuse from buying or owning guns. It is a law that tends to make people who have a history of being easily angered - even angrier.
Currently two men in Maine have a case that is about to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The men, both convicted domestic abusers, are unhappy about not being able to own guns. They are arguing that loss of gun privileges is acceptable in cases where abuse is premeditated, but should not be used in cases that were spur-of-the-moment - such as when one partner might suddenly strike or slap the other. The fellows believe there should be a hierarchy of abuse, and not all abuse should warrant the removal of the abuser's guns.
Research has shown that in cases where the abuser has access to a gun, chances are five times greater that a death will occur.
Now, almost at the same instant that the two men from Maine were climbing the front steps to the Supreme Court building to plea their case, comes a story out of Kansas that demonstrates just how dangerous and volatile domestic violence situations can be. A man who was described as a nice guy by co-workers was viewed in a more dangerous light by an ex-girlfriend who filed for an order of protection against him. The fellow was served with the permanent order at his workplace on Thursday. He calmly left the factory, so quietly that the man working next to him did not notice him leaving, went home, got his guns, and then went on a shooting rampage. The nice guy wound up killing three and wounding fourteen before being killed by a courageous policeman.
Should any domestic abuser be allowed to own a gun?