GOP Holding Up Gun Bill To Ensure Abusive Ex-Boyfriends Can Have Guns
I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at a guy who beat up a woman they were dating and say "Is that really all that bad? Are we gonna say he's a bad guy now? It would be one thing if he was married to her, but they were only dating for a few months! Totally different thing." I do not think that happens. I have an incredibly low bar for the cruelty of which I believe humans are capable, and yet I cannot imagine that happening.
Remember last week when the Senate announced they had agreed on a "bipartisan gun bill" that wasn't a very good bill but was at least "something?" Well, the main thing that is holding up discussions on the bill are the teeny tiny steps it would take towards closing the "boyfriend loophole."
As it currently stands, those found guilty of domestic violence are barred from gun ownership — but only when the victim is a former spouse, live-in partner or parent to their child. So basically, unless you choose to marry, live with or have a child with your abuser, that person is more than free to get a gun to murder you or the next person they hook up with. For years, Democrats have been trying to close that loophole, understanding that there is no real difference between someone who abuses someone they are married to and someone who abuses someone they are dating. They would also like to broaden the language to ensure that those abusers charged with assault rather than "domestic violence" are also not being given guns.
Republicans? They're just not so sure. They're reportedly very concerned that a guy who just punched a girlfriend in the face (not a wife!) might not be able to get a gun years later. After all, who doesn't have a few "punching women in the face" youthful indiscretions under their belt?
They're also a little unsure about the funding that would be going to states with red flag laws, partly for the purpose of encouraging states to have red flag laws, because why can't the states that don't have red flag laws get that money too? Perhaps for a program that gives guns to people who seem likely to hurt themselves or others?
This is not just meant to punish men who abuse women (or anyone who abuses anyone). 68 percent of mass shooters have a history of domestic violence. Nearly all of them, at the very least, have issues with women and a history of misogyny. Practically every time there is a mass shooting, we end up getting stories about how the shooter was violent towards an ex-girlfriend or wife, how they stalked a woman, how they were notoriously creepy or predatory towards women or how they flipped out after being rejected by a woman.
May I just point out by the way that there are a lot of non-violent offenses that can lead to someone not being allowed to own a gun. Drug offenses, being addicted to drugs, literally any kind of felony conviction including financial crimes or importing counterfeit cassette tapes or having been dishonorably discharged from the military can all prevent you from being able to legally own a gun. But violently assaulting a woman you haven't moved in with, married or had a kid with yet? Ooh, not so sure about that!
I don't think anyone should own a gun, period, but if I had to choose between giving a gun to someone with a history of beating up women he was not married to, living with or sharing a child with, and someone who wrote a bad check or got caught with some pot, I'm gonna go with the latter.
The Right keeps wanting to blame these shootings on "mental illness," because apparently the only way they can bring themselves to address the problem is by getting to stigmatize a group of already vulnerable people. But the vast majority of those who commit these crimes do not have any kind of diagnosable mental illness. Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes actually did and was being treated by psychiatrists at the time he shot up a theater full of people watching The Dark Knight Rises. One of Holmes' psychiatrists was close to trying to have him committed at the time and decided against because she thought it would make him even more volatile. Colorado did not have a red flag law at that time, but if they had, that would have been a pretty good option for her and it would have saved a lot of lives.
And need I remind you — Holmes plead not guilty by reason of insanity. A jury rejected that and found him guilty. Despite the fact that he was a diagnosed schizophrenic, they found that the mental illness did not cause him to kill 12 people in a movie theater, that he understood what he was doing and that it was wrong.
It should also be noted that one impetus for Holmes' rampage was that his girlfriend broke up with him.
No one is saying mental health care is not important or that it is not beneficial to those without diagnosable conditions. Many of these shooters have a history of childhood trauma and other situational issues and mental health treatment could certainly be helpful there. But the desire to blame these shootings on mental illness is really just a way of shifting the blame away from access to guns, and now away from violent misogynists. Because hey! A lot of violent misogynists vote Republican.
If we lose the boyfriend loophole and the funding for red flag laws, we don't really get anything. The funding for mental health is great, but it would be great independent of this as well. And as great as background checks are, the provision that allows law enforcement to look at sealed juvenile criminal records and mental health records in order for someone to buy a gun is bad. Those records are sealed for a reason and any move to unseal them for any reason is a bad move. It would be one thing to just mark someone off as being disqualified for gun ownership for a certain amount of time prior to those records being sealed, but to allow law enforcement or anyone to look at them is an absolute violation. Not to mention the fact that very few of these shooters ever actually have criminal or even psychiatric records that would disqualify them ... outside of domestic violence.
The things that would actually help are clear. Unfortunately, what's also clear is that Republicans would rather see people die in mass shootings on a regular basis rather than do any of them.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse