Restraining Order Doesn’t Stop Woman’s Violent Ex-Husband Who Was Allowed to Keep His Guns

gunShould you have to give up your gun if you have an order of protection against you? The answer should be obvious. But a Spokane, Washington woman named Stephanie Holten is speaking out to share the reality.

Holten got a court order that barred her ex-husband from coming within two blocks of her. Twelve hours later, he was standing in front of her with a semiautomatic, pushing her into her house and telling her he was going to kill her.


This isn't just Holten's reality. It's the reality of domestic violence and guns in America.

A victim can finally find the courage to seek a court order to keep their domestic abuser away from them ... only to find out that the person who has told them over and over and over again that they will hunt them down and kill them still has a gun.

The New York Times broached the topic of domestic abusers and guns in the context of how legislation is changing in a post-Sandy Hook world. Holten's story speaks volumes about our gun culture.

But in a week that's brought us TV commentators attempting to sympathize with the rapists in the Steubenville case, it bears noting that domestic violence is still wildly under-reported and still under-prosecuted. We still live in a world of rape apologists, of "she was asking for it" and an expectation that women succumb to their husband's demands.

It's hardly surprising that domestic abusers get to keep their guns too.

A woman who escapes unspeakable abuses can secure a court order against the perpetrator, but it's nothing more than a piece of paper until the weight of the law is put behind it. Allowing domestic abusers to hold onto their guns because it is their "right" is a rather large "f" you to a woman whose right to live a life without being a human punching bag has been violated for the past decade.

Consider the following domestic abuse tatistics:

  • Nearly one-third of all women murdered in the United States in recent years were murdered by a current or former intimate partner. In 2000, 1,247 women, more than three a day, were killed
    by their intimate partners.
  • A study of women physically abused by current or former intimate partners found a five-fold increased risk of the partner murdering the woman when the partner owned a gun.

You can escape an abuser for only so long when they possess a gun. On the other hand, one study found a found a 19 percent reduction in intimate partner homicides after laws were put in place to require guns be surrendered in case of an order of protection.

So why does this continue to happen? Why in states across the country are there no surrender laws for people subject to protective orders? Why was Stephanie Holten desperately calling 911 when she was supposed to be safe?

Shouldn't we have come to a point where we treat threats of violence seriously, with more than a slap on the wrist?

I've noticed that in the wake of Sandy Hook many of the pro-gun advocates have blamed the problem on a lack of attention to shooter Adam Lanza's mental health issues, to supposed violent tendencies he exhibited prior to the shooting. Let's say they're right. Shouldn't gun advocates then be suggesting that domestic abusers who expose violent tendencies, tendencies serious enough to get them slapped with an order of protection, are too dangerous to own guns?

Or will that only happen if there's a sudden switch in the numbers, if the women who make up 85 percent of domestic violence victims suddenly became men? Would more people care then?

Do you think it's fair to take guns away from people who are facing an order of protection? What should be done?


Image via teamstickergiant/Flickr


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