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Actually Solving the Problem(s)by Brad Hicks ( Notes) on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 8:03am
I got forwarded, this morning, a link to a nice long New York Times article about laws (in some states) that strip the gun ownership rights of anybody who gets even a temporary restraining order put on them for threatening to kill their wife or girlfriend. (Michael Luo, "In Some States, Gun Rights Trump Orders of Protection," NYT, 3/17/03.) The reason that most states don't have these laws is that the NRA keeps arguing that they won't solve the problem; one of their arguments is that anybody who won't obey the law that says "don't murder" probably won't obey the law that says "don't have a gun." There is an example in the text of the article of exactly what they mean: a guy who threatened his girlfriend, got his guns taken away, went to a gun show, bought more guns, and shot her.
They are absolutely right that laws (theoretically) disarming abusers won't stop all of them from killing. Making it less convenient for them to kill may do some tiny bit of good; maybe some of them won't bother if you make it inconvenient enough. And taking their guns away might send a strong signal to some of them that no, the rest of society doesn't agree with them that leaving a man is a death penalty offense, maybe even more of them than it convinces that life is unfair and all of society is against them. We could debate these bills and laws all day, and we'd be arguing about saving a few lives out of the thousands that are threatened and hundreds that are killed. Yes, a few lives either way are worth saving, but it does nothing for the vast majority of them.
So what would?
I also got forwarded, today, a pretty good article from Yahoo Sports about the Steubenville gang-rape case (Dan Wetzel, "Steubenville High School football players found guilty of raping 16-year-old girl," Yahoo Sports, 3/17/03) and the author pointed out something that jumped out at him about the case, something that no other reporter seems to have picked up on:
The night of the gang rape, one kid saw that an acquaintance of his was too drunk to drive. He confronted that kid about it, and when the drunk refused to give in, he forcibly took the drunk's keys away. But that same evening, just a little later, he walked in on that same drunk raping a girl ... and turned around and walked away. As Katie Hanna, statewide director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, pointed out to the reporter, "Something has gotten in there that said, 'OK, we need to prevent drinking and driving,' We need to take it to that level with preventing sexual assault."
And, I'll add, domestic violence.
We absolutely need courts to say, to have the authority to say and to be required to say, to gun owners, "If you threatened to kill someone because you're angry, instead of to save a life, you are exactly the kind of criminal who should never ever own a gun again." But having legislators and judges tell them won't be enough. We need the same kind of sustained social pressure that Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving finally brought to bear on all of society, so that, just as right now almost every American will intervene if they hear someone threaten to drive drunk or brag about having driven while drunk, they also feel just as much pressure to intervene when they hear that someone is threatening to hurt or kill a woman for leaving them or when they hear someone brag that if their woman leaves them, they'll hurt her.
Social solutions like that can't be implemented quickly. They take time, and persuasion, and well-funded grass-roots movements with the persistence to bring relentless year after year pressure. But as the Steubenville gang rape case (and many other cases showed) they can work; kids who couldn't be shamed out of raping girls can be shamed out of drunk driving. So maybe we can also shame them out of raping girls. And maybe, if we keep trying long enough and hard enough, we can shame them, and their parents, out of feeling entitled to kill them.