Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Help for Domestic Violence Convicts

No, you didn't read the title wrong. Yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that state and local gun laws may not unconstitutionally infringe an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. NPR reports:
We have made clear, said Alito, that bans on handguns for felons and the mentally ill are permissible so, too, are laws barring the carrying of handguns near schools, in government buildings and laws that impose conditions on the commercial sale of guns.
These and other "reasonable"restrictions will be allowed; however, the amount of restriction that is reasonable is up for considerable debate. For instance, domestic violence advocates would argue that it is quite reasonable for those charged with or convicted of domestic violence, or those against whom a protective order has been granted, to have their gun rights restricted. After all, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, women are more likely to be killed with a firearm than by all other means combined. This is not Georgia-specific, but is a nationwide truth.

However, other groups find this restriction less than reasonable. In fact, they find restricting the gun rights of batterers so egregious that batterers are the very first group whose gun rights they will fight to restore.

TOTENBERG: Herb Titus, counsel for the Gun Owners of America, agrees. He sees challenges as well to registration and licensing restrictions to age restrictions for gun ownership and to limits on the number of guns that can be bought at one time. But first in the pipeline of challenges, he says, will be the challenges to laws banning guns for those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors.

Mr. HERB TITUS (Counsel, Gun Owners of America): I believe that the prohibition against people who’ve been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence will probably be the area of litigation down the road.
Maybe you agree. Maybe you think that men who have committed domestic violence but have completed a batterer's intervention program or who otherwise have learned their lesson do not deserve to have their right to bear arms infringed upon. The US Department of Justice would probably disagree with you, given their stats on recidivism. Blue Wave News provides a summary:

According to a 2000 study which interviewed the former and current partners of male batterers referred to batterer programs by the court:

  • 41% of participants reported that the men committed a re-assault during the 30-month follow-up period.
  • Nearly 2/3 of the first time re-assaults occurred in the first 6 months.
  • About 20 percent of the men repeatedly re-assaulted their partners and account for most of the reported injuries.

In an examination of 1,309 cases under a program mandate at the Bronx misdemeanor domestic violence court:

  • 8% of the defendants were rearrested between the initial arrest and case disposition, 35% during the program mandate period, 31% during the one year following the end of the mandate and 44% during the two years following the mandate.
  • Overall, from the moment of index arrest to two years post release, 62 % of all defendants were rearrested.
If the restriction of batterer's gun rights is deemed "unreasonable" by the courts, this will be a huge blow to the safety of women across the country.

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