In many ways I was not yet a grownup—still childish in love and in work, a renter and sometime student with not even a car title in my name. But with the license, and the gun, came a host of new grownup worries. First: Who do you shoot, and when?
Among reflections on the recent shootings that have devatated communities across the country, Adam Weinstein’s column for Gawker is a must-read. There is, truly, more there than one can justly quote, from―
Back when the licenses were still a new thing and the required instructional classes weren’t a joke, my dad’s class was run through a host of scenarios: You’re broken down on a dirt road in the middle of the night. A black dude in a Cutty pulls up behind you, gets out, comes out with a tire-iron. What do you do? Half my dad’s class said to shoot the black man.
When my son was born, all of my questions suddenly had a very basic answer. I would love for him to grow up as I did, enjoying shooting but understanding that every gun is loaded and you never touch one without an adult and you don’t point it at anything you don’t intend to shoot. But more than that, I’d love to believe that he’ll have no mischievous accidents, no suicidal depressions or homicidal rages, no moments of weakness or fits of pique or questions that can be answered by the pull of a trigger. As with all the other scenarios in which I’m the good guy with the gun, I can never be sure. I carry my permit, as I always have. But now all my guns live with my father.
―and beyond. Just read it.
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Meanwhile, there is also the tale of S. 1290, the “Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013”.
Laura Bassett explains the situation for Huffington Post:
The National Rifle Association is fighting proposed federal legislation that would prohibit those convicted of stalking and of domestic violence against dating partners from buying guns, according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post.
Federal law already bars persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from purchasing firearms. S. 1290, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), would add convicted stalkers to that group of offenders and would expand the current definition of those convicted of domestic violence against “intimate partners” to include those who harmed dating partners.
Aides from two different senators’ offices confirm that the NRA sent a letter to lawmakers describing Klobuchar’s legislation as “a bill to turn disputes between family members and social acquaintances into lifetime firearm prohibitions.” The nation’s largest gun lobby wrote that it “strongly opposes” the bill because the measure “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.”
The NRA’s letter imagines a “single shoving match” between two gay men as an example of how the domestic violence legislation could be misused. “Under S. 1290, for example, two men of equal size, strength, and economic status joined by a civil union or merely engaged (or formerly engaged) in an intimate ‘social relationship,’ could be subject to this prohibition for conviction of simple ‘assault’ arising from a single shoving match,” the letter says.
The NRA also argues in the letter that “stalking” is too broad of a term to indicate any danger to women. “‘Stalking’ offenses do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior,” the letter claims. “Under federal law, for example, stalking includes ‘a course of conduct’ that never involves any personal contact whatsoever, occurs wholly through the mail, online media, or telephone service, is undertaken with the intent to ‘harass’ and would be reasonably expected to cause (even if it doesn’t succeed in causing) ‘substantial emotional distress’ to another person.”
The letter adds that the federal stalking law on the books is “so broadly written that some constitutional scholars even claim it could reach speech protected under the First Amendment.”
Because, well, stalkers need guns, too.
The first thing to recognize is that the NRA logic is absolutely appalling. In the end, what it comes down to is simply that they want stalkers to have access to guns.
S. 1290 has to do with two sections of the United States Code, § 921 and 922. The part of the bill that pertains to 921 (“Definitions”) simply adds non-marital, non-cohabitating intimate partnership to the range of disqualifying considerations. The part that amends 922 (“Unlawful acts”) adds misdemeanor stalking to the list of disqualifying convictions, alongside misdemeanor domestic violence. This latter is what the National Rifle Association objects to.
It is not difficult to construe all sorts of paranoid possibilities; scenes from a desperate mind. But while one can always find a constitutional scholar to argue one case or another, it really is hard to figure what the NRA is appealing to by invoking protected speech. Are they really suggesting that the stalkers’ equivalent of a troll, who calculates every cruelty to fall within his own comprehension of what the law allows, is in some manner representative of healthy behavior?
The appeal to a gay male couple getting into a “shoving match” is macabre; domestic violence among same-sex couples is its own tangled nightmare that deserves better respect than a stereotypical queer hissy fight.
But the part about “disputes between family members and social acquaintances”, and “manipulat[ing] emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking'” is especially problematic, given the stakes, as Bassett reminds:
Domestic abusers who have access to guns are over seven times more likely to kill their partners than those who don’t have such access. A report released by the Center for American Progress last week shows that stalkers and physically abusive dating partners can be just as deadly as a violent spouse. One study of female murder victims in 10 cities found that three-quarters of the women killed, and 85 percent of women who survived a murder attempt by a current or former intimate partner, had been stalked in the previous year. And almost half of all intimate-partner homicides are committed by a non-married, non-cohabitating dating partner who was not covered by federal gun restrictions.
And speaking of paranoia, remember this: The idea that what the NRA wants is a society in which everyone is armed, such that civility is enforced through perpetual mortal fear, is hardly outlandish when we pause to consider that the National Rifle Association is, first and foremost, a lobby for firearms manufacturers and sellers.
And, hey, if stalkers need guns, so do the people they might stalk. There are reasons why concealed-carry permits are on a striking rise among women.
And should Stand Your Ground ever meet the Rape Panic Defense, and some moron gets shot for chatting up a woman in a pub? Well, all the better for the NRA.
Weinstein, Adam. “It’s Really Hard to Be a Good Guy With a Gun”. Gawker. 10 June 2014.
113th Congress. S. 1290: Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013. 11 July 2013.
Bassett, Laura. “NRA Fights For Convicted Stalkers’ Gun Rights”. The Huffington Post. 25 June 2014.
United States Code. “Chapter 44”. Title 18. 2014.
Shwayder, Maya. “A Same-Sex Domestic Violence Epidemic Is Silent”. The Atlantic. 5 November 2013.
Rosenthal, Brian M., Justin Mayo and Erika Schultz. “State’s concealed-carry permits skyrocket, especially for women”. The Seattle Times. 31 May 2014.