The National Rifle Association seems set upon a course to convince most sentient creatures that is has completely lost the plot. Its Flying Monkey Brigade is out to kill a bill that would prevent those convicted of stalking from purchasing firearms. [RS] The Association issued a letter opposing the bill proposed by former prosecutor Amy Klobuchar (D-MN):
“In the letter, the NRA argued that the legislation “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for firearm prohibitions.” [RS]
Translation: Members of Congress should not enact any legislation about which people have some passionate views, especially when those views concern the personal safety of themselves and their loved ones? Or, are we too read this as, members of Congress should not enact bills which restrict the access of gun ownership to anyone, no matter how inappropriate or unsafe the circumstances?
The letter went further:
“The NRA is also concerned that the definition of “stalking” is too broad to warrant any abridging of the Second Amendment. “‘Stalking’ offenses do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior,” the letter read.
“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.” [RS]
So, Gee — if there wasn’t any physical contact — this isn’t really really threatening behavior? This doesn’t cause any ‘real’ fear, any ‘real’ concern for personal or family safety? There’s nothing to say that the behavior might escalate?
The Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a report in 2009 (pdf) which offers another view of the issue. The report found that stalkers also engaged in property damage, illegal entry and burglary, battery, rape, sexual assault, attacks on family members, on children, and on family pets. Most stalking victims reported threats of physical harm, threats to kill, threats to harm another family member or to harm a pet. There were threats of suicide, harming co-workers, and the use of weapons. All of this does not sound like a “course of conduct” which would be mitigated by the addition of firearms.
How do we deal with the NRA charge that ‘stalking’ is too vague a term, and just another excuse to take guns away? Nevada’s statutes offer a fair example of how stalking is defined:
“A person who, without lawful authority, willfully or maliciously engages in a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, commits the crime of stalking.”
Where the NRA simply omits the list of things that stalkers do to terrify their prey — and dismisses it as something that might not even be scary — the state of Nevada explains that if the stalker causes an otherwise reasonable person to feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed, or fearful for immediate safety,” this constitutes stalking. In short, the NRA displays a thorough disregard for the victims of stalking , and focuses solely on the ‘poor’ stalker — who might not have done any physical harm (yet) — being unable to hop down to the gun shop and procure whatever weapon desired. This state of affairs is unlikely to alleviate the situation of the victim.
46% of the victims of the stalkers report fearing “what would happen next,” exactly the frame of mind the stalker sought to induce. 29% feared the stalking would never stop. One in eight stalking victims lost time at work, and one in seven found it necessary to move because of a stalker. [VOC] And then there’s the health end of the problem:
“The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed. [Eric Blauuw et al. “The Toll of Stalking,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 17, no. 1(2002):50-63.]
There’s also that “emotionally compelling” issue of domestic violence, which the NRA intimates ought not to deprive a batterer of “his rights.” Nevada has addressed this issue head on.
Nevada takes domestic violence seriously. There’s nothing vague about the provisions of NRS 33.018. Domestic violence is domestic violence, and there are penalties for it. Neither is there anything incomprehensible about NRS 200.485 which delineates the elements of a domestic violence battery. If a person uses “willful and unlawful force or violence upon the person of another,” that’s a battery. [NVLeg] And, if a person commits an act of domestic violence, the state of Nevada provides for injunctions to protect the victim, including two sections in the statutes addressing firearms. [NRS 33.031 & NRS 33.033]
The 2007 Nevada Legislature passed AB 194, signed by the Governor on June 7, 2007, and from that time forward a court may issue an extended order of protection which requires that an ‘adverse’ party give up their firearms. The votes in the Legislature weren’t even close — the Assembly vote was 41-0, and the Senate vote was 20-1. There was a reason for that — some appalling numbers which put Nevada at the top of some lists which weren’t all that positive.
During testimony on AB 194 (pdf) the Assembly Judiciary Committee heard testimony stating:
“Since 1999, Nevada has consistently rated among the top five states for domestic violence homicides of women. In 2004, Nevada had 2.21 female homicides per 100,000 women, and the national average is 1.37. Statistics show that 55 to 67 percent of domestic violence homicides are committed with the use of firearms. Out of the 25 homicides in Nevada in 2004, 15 were killed with firearms, six were beaten to death, and four were killed with knives. That shows about 60 percent being killed with firearms. When firearms are used in domestic violence assaults, it is 12 times more likely to result in death than assaults without firearms involved. It is clear that firearms and domestic violence are a deadly combination.” (page 25)
Until the NRA ceases to lobby for the sales of firearms to stalkers and domestic abusers, there’s no reason to take them seriously.