Connecting the Dots:
Guns, Intimate Partner Violence, The Supreme Court & The ERA
The war on women is being waged in courts where an already flawed Constitution is being interpreted to endanger rather than protect women.
A little background:
Almost 3 women a day are killed by an intimate partner in the United States -
¾ of them are murdered with a gun.
Gun ownership increases BY 5X the likelihood of an abuser murdering his partner
Last year’s Supreme Court Decision in the New York State Pistol & Rifle Association v. Bruen case set new ground rules for interpreting the Second Amendment which require the government to justify gun control laws by demonstrating they are “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
Based on this decision, on February 2, 2023 a Federal Appeals Court panel - made up of two Trump and one Reagan appointee(s) - ruled that the government cannot prohibit a gun to someone subject to a domestic violence restraining order.
The mind boggles.
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s statement in response to Thursday’s ruling includes the following:
“Nearly 30 years ago, Congress determined that a person who is subject to a court order that restrains him or her from threatening an intimate partner or child cannot lawfully possess a firearm. Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent, or of the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, that statute is constitutional. Accordingly, the Department will seek further review of the Fifth Circuit’s contrary decision.”
In the meantime, the war on women continues. Not only are guns being used to terrorize and kill women, the Constitution is being used as a weapon, too.
The ruling by the Republican appointed members of the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court panel also underlines the need for final certification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Despite what might seem logical, the Fourteenth Amendment (guaranteeing equal protection) apparently doesn’t require the government to intervene in cases of gender violence, as explained frequently by victim’s rights attorney, Laura Dunn.
As it is, “The Constitution allows the police to stand by and watch a private citizen assault another private citizen and do nothing.” She refers to the Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales decision by the Supreme Court which ruled that the police cannot be sued for failing to enforce a restraining order (A failure which eventually resulted in the deaths of a woman and her three children).
Dunn also points to the 2015 Justice Department Guidance on Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence as a recognition of the significance of this on-going bias. The language of this Guidance includes the following:
“Gender bias can manifest in police officers misclassifying or underreporting sexual assault and domestic violence cases; inappropriately jumping to conclusions and labeling sexual assault cases unfounded; failing to test sexual assault kits; interrogating rather than interviewing victims and witnesses; treating domestic violence as a family matter rather than a crime; failing to enforce protection orders; or failing to treat same-sex domestic violence as a crime. These failures may ultimately compromise law enforcement’s ability to ascertain the facts, determine whether the incident constitutes a crime and develop a case that holds the perpetrator accountable.”
These failures, the failures of the Supreme Court, and the absence of the Equal Rights Amendment are unacceptable. Placing a gun in the hand of an abuser (or even just allowing it) is nothing less than being an arms dealer in the war on women.
I’m going to send Attorney General Garland a note of thanks for committing to address the 5th Circuit decision. Here’s the DOJ contact info:
UPDATE: On February 10, 2023, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI-6), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Survivors Act of 2023. This bill closes the “dating loophole” in federal firearms law (previously omitted in the final version of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2022 when it was finally passed as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill. Currently, the law allows dating partners subject to final protective orders to legally possess firearms, and the stalking loophole, which allows people convicted of misdemeanor stalking to legally possess firearms.