If you buy a gun from a federally-licensed dealer, Question 11h asks: “Are you subject to a court order restraining you from harassing, stalking, or threatening your child or an intimate partner or child of such partner?” And if you answer ‘yes,’ or the FBI determines that you should have answered in the affirmative, you ain’t getting the gun. The problem with this question, however, is that there loopholes in this law big enough to drive the veritable truck.
First, walking into a court and getting a restraining order isn’t the same thing as buying the annual dog license. It can be a long, drawn-out process, it may only be a temporary order and believe it or not, not every state requires that the person served with the order surrender their guns. And then there’s a problem with the wording of the Question 11f itself, because if you check the fine print on the NICS-FBI form, you’ll discover that an ‘intimate partner’ is defined as a spouse or a former spouse, or someone who cohabitates or has cohabitated with the individual who took out the restraining order in the first place. [My italics.] Which means that if someone finds themselves in an abusive relationship with someone with whom they do not share living space, the prohibition on gun ownership doesn’t hold.
This gap in the law is being challenged today in of all places, Louisiana, which happens to be a particularly gun-friendly state. But a member of the Louisiana House, Helena Moreno, whose district is just south of New Orleans, has a bill which cleared committee by a near-unanimous vote, and expands the definition of domestic abuser to persons involved in dating relationships, which happens to account for 70% of domestic homicides in the state.
The bill comes up for a floor vote today and of course our friends down in Fairfax oppose it. After all, if you widen the definition of a domestic relationship to go beyond people who live together, then you are going “well beyond federal law in limiting Second Amendment rights.” Notice incidentally, that any attempt to keep people away from guns who shouldn’t have a gun is always a ‘limit’ on 2nd-Amendment rights. And pardon me for a brief editorial, but I’m really sick and tired of listening to all my GVP friends who tell me they want more gun regulations but support 2nd-amendment ‘rights.’ Enough with the 2nd Amendment, okay?
But before everyone in Gun-sense Nation starts celebrating the attempt by Louisiana to protect domestic abuse victims, it should be noted that Gun-nut Nation has been working overtime to push the legal needle in the other direction. States are also passing laws which allow domestic abuse victims to carry a gun if they are legal gun owners, whether or not they have a concealed-carry (CCW) license. A new law in Virginia approves this practice as long as a CCW application is in the works. A similar law has been introduced in Indiana, which gives the victim a temporary, 60-day period to carry a concealed weapon either from the day they obtain their court order or the day they apply for a CCW. And the same legislation has just been signed into law in Illinois.
I’m not saying that protecting domestic abuse victims shouldn’t be the highest priority of the police and the courts. But the idea that someone who owns a gun could imagine that the presence of a firearm would give them a higher degree of protection simply promotes the utterly false narrative that guns should be the first line of defense against any and all threats.
I notice that our friends at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence publish a monthly report detailing the status of state-level gun laws. Maybe they would consider stealing a page from the NRA and coding onto their website an automated messaging system so that residents in a state with an upcoming gun vote could let the legislators know how they feel. I’ll put up $500 to help pay for that deal. Any takers?