While the NRA continues to fiddle away with its good guys with guns tune, they seem to have missed the boat from the perspective of gender. The truth is that women are 15% of all gun homicide victims each year, and they are overwhelmingly shot during domestic disputes. And what the NRA has not been able explain is how all these good guys will protect us from the bad guys when the bad guy happens to be a husband, or an ex-husband, or an angry boyfriend who gets into an argument with his wife or girlfriend and then pulls out a gun.
Until recently, the NRA and its allies usually resisted efforts to tighten laws that made it easier to take guns away from people (overwhelmingly males) who were engaged in domestic disputes, arguing sometimes with good reason that the issuance of a domestic restraining order often had little or nothing to do with whether the guy receiving the order was a danger or not. Giving the cops wide latitude to make such a determination and arbitrarily seize someone’s guns was not only a violation of the 2nd Amendment, but also ran contrary to Constitutional guarantees protecting us from unlawful search and seizure and due process.
But the tide seems to be turning and the NRA in a slow and deliberate way is beginning to show signs that resisting any efforts to mandate government controls over firearms might not be such a good thing. Working largely the scenes, the NRA quietly helped sponsors in Washington State to change a law that now allows for confiscation of guns if someone is charged with a domestic abuse misdemeanor, whereas previously the NRA only consented to such actions of an individual was charged with a felony. The NRA is also backing similar laws in at least three other states and seems to be taking its cues from a recent Supreme Court decision that resulted in someone losing his guns because he was convicted of domestic abuse in Tennessee, even though the state’s definition of abuse was not as clear as the federal definition which had previously been applied to instances where abusers lost their guns.
There’s some thought out there that the NRA is modifying its stance on this issue as part of its recent campaign to get women more interesting in buying and owning guns. But even if this is true, it doesn’t change the fact that gun owners may find themselves supporting an organization which has belligerently campaigned against any changes in gun control laws at all. And from a symbolic point of view, the biggest change may be shortly coming in Texas, whose recent image as a gun-loving state has been tarnished by the antics of some gun-toting dopes who “invaded” some retail chains openly displaying their AR-15’s.
Texas has a statute that bans domestic abusers from keeping guns, but the law is rarely enforced, which basically means that there’s no law at all. Recently a Dallas judge who handles domestic cases appointed himself to head an initiative that will oversee and more strongly enforce the gun ban. The judge, Roberto Cañas, has already taken steps to strengthen the law’s enforcement, including getting other judges on board with the plan and convening a meeting of all county judges who deal with domestics to chart a new course. A state Representative, Rafael Anchia, has announced plans to introduce new legislation on this issue in next year’s legislative session.
Legislation or procedures that deprive anyone of their access to guns has to be crafted carefully. But the NRA could take a giant leap forward if they used their devotion to family as a rationale for openly supporting limiting gun access in cases of domestic abuse. They would make a lot more friends among female voters by coming out of the shadows on this issue rather than letting vendors into the annual show who sell pink holsters and brassieres. It may be difficult for the NRA to convince some of the members that backing government gun controls is sometimes more right than wrong, but leadership, even leadership of a gun-rights organization, always demands some risks.