One of the lesser-known battlegrounds of the gun violence debate is the relationship between firearms and restraining orders. In many states, those served with protective orders are not required to surrender their guns, even if gun-related threats have been made. Now, stats are surfacing that suggest seizing firearms in circumstances like these could prevent domestic homicides.
Take Barbara Diane Dye of Oklahoma. According to The New York Times, Dye got an emergency protective order against her husband, Raymond Dye, in 2010. She did this because she was afraid he would react violently when she served him with divorce papers. Approved for a temporary order, with a hearing for a lengthier one in three weeks, Dye hid out in Texas. When she came back in advance of the hearing, her husband cornered her in a bank parking lot, shot her repeatedly with a .357 revolver, and then shot himself with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. As he shot her, witnesses say, he kept repeating, “I love you, I love you…”
In her petition, Dye had revealed that her husband had an “arsenal” of weapons. Raymond Dye, however, was not required to surrender them after the protective order was approved.
This isn’t the only case of men disregarding restraining orders to come after their partner with guns. A 2001 study published in the Criminal Justice Review said that approximately one in five women who are shot by a partner had obtained restraining orders first.
The 1994 crime bill addressed this issue by disallowing those served with full protection orders the ability to purchase or possess firearms. Almost twenty years later, the provision is rarely enforced. Last year, prosecutors filed fewer than 50 such cases, according to a Times analysis of data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. This means the issue has largely been left to state regulation.
Some states–like California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts–require anyone served with a domestic violence order, temporary or not, to surrender their guns. Others–like Maryland and Wisconsin–require a full injunction before guns can be taken away. Many have no surrender requirement at all.
Advocates for domestic violence victims say the most dangerous time for a woman are the first days after the temporary restraining order is filed. Barbara Diane Dye, for example, was killed one week before her hearing for a full injunction. But the NRA has pushed back against federal and state measures pertaining to this issue. Being served with a restraining order is not a felony, and, according to Brian Judy, NRA lobbyist for Washington State, ”any crime that is serious enough to cause an individual to lose a fundamental constitutional right should be classified as a felony.”
“The NRA likes to think in terms of hypotheticals,” said msnbc’s Frank Smyth on The Last Word Wednesday. “But we’re not talking, in the real world, about hypotheticals. We’re talking about women who are intimidated, threatened, beaten, injured, and killed by men who have been subject to retraining order but still have their firearms.”
Domestic violence is a major contributor to gun deaths in America. A woman is two times more likely to be shot to death by male intimates than killed in any other way by a stranger. In 2010, 547 women were shot to death by a boyfriend, husband, or ex-husband.