Women, gun violence, and domestic violence

According to the op-ed by Nicolas Kristof in last Sunday’s New York Times Review,

Sometimes there’s a perception that domestic violence is insoluble, because it’s such a complex, messy problem with women who are culprits as well as victims. Yet, in fact, this is an area where the United States has seen enormous progress.

Based on victimization surveys, it seems that violence by men against their intimate partners has fallen by almost two-thirds since 1993. Attitudes have changed as well. In 1987, only half of Americans said that it was always wrong for a man to beat his wife with a belt or stick; a decade later, 86 percent said that it was always wrong.

A generation ago, police didn’t typically get involved. “We would say, ‘don’t make us come back, or you’re both going to jail,’ ” recalled Capt. Leonard Dreyer of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. In contrast, sheriff’s officers now routinely arrest the aggressor.

I have to admit that I am skeptical, but hope that his numbers are correct.  Even Kristof opens his column with ” [w]hat strikes one American woman in four and claims a life in the United States every six hours?”  A high profile case such as that of Jared Remy who killed his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel in front of their young daughter confirms that at point at which a woman makes an effort to leave a relationship is the point at which she is most likely to be killed.  Kristof himself recounts this story

American women are twice as likely to suffer domestic violence as breast cancer, and the abuse is particularly shattering because it comes from those we have loved.

“He’s the only person I’ve ever loved,” Ta’Farian, 24, said of her husband, whom she met when she was an 18-year-old college student. He gradually became violent, she says, beating her, locking her up in a closet, and destroying property.

“My family was like, ‘He’s your husband. You can’t leave him. How would you support yourself?’ ”

Still, she says, it became too much, and she called 911. Police arrested him. But she says that the day before the trial, her husband called and threatened to kill her if she testified against him, so she says that out of a mix of fear and love she refused to repeat in court what had happened. Her husband was let off, and she was convicted of false reporting of a crime.

I was still thinking about the Kristof column this morning when I read this front page story in this morning’s Boston Globe on women who buy and hold guns for men.

…As law enforcement agencies and the administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh ponder ways to get guns off the street, they are learning that targeting the men who historically have been the primary actors in violent crimes is not enough.

They must also disrupt networks of women who buy and hold weapons for men to use.

“We are seeing women with weapons who do not have a direct role in the city’s gun violence,’’ said Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley. “But they are turning up with firearms that are used in that violence.”

Debora Seifert, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol,  Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Boston, said that she has worked on cases in which women bought firearms for boyfriends who are drug dealers.

Police confiscated a shotgun and ammunition from Arianna Talbert’s Dorchester apartment last year.

“These women can go into a gun shop and buy these guns for a violent criminal,’’ said Seifert. “They can use these weapons to victimize someone in their communities.”

Jahmeilla Tresvant is facing gun charges in two cases. In one, police believe she was holding a gun for her brother

Jahmeilla Tresvant is facing gun charges in two cases. In one, police believe she was holding a gun for her brother

These guns are often hidden in apartments rented by the women and their discovery can result in eviction.

While research is scant on women’s involvement in the gun problem, studies have been clear about who is leading violence by firearms, said David Hemenway, a professor of public health at Harvard School of Public Health.

Men and teenage boys drive gun crime either as victims or perpetrators. If a woman buys a gun, Hemenway added, she is more likely to be buying it for someone who cannot legally buy a gun.

“These young females find themselves facing jail time for holding that gun,’’ said Evans [Boston Police Commissioner William Evans] in a statement.

The mindset that let Ta’Farian stay with her abusive husband is the same one that causes the young women to buy and hold guns.

In the war on illegal guns, Ruth Rollins has heard it all. She’s an advocate for women whose own son was shot and killed. Women have long been flying under radar in police sweeps for illegal guns, she said. And women have become easy prey for criminally-minded men, who are becoming savvy in avoiding arrest for gun possession by having female relatives, partners, or juveniles hold firearms for them.

Women have said they hold the guns for a variety of reasons: to get a few extra dollars, to get drugs, or simply to feel needed. The firearms are sometimes used as community guns stored in a central location, and anyone, from a wayward juvenile to a terrified young man, can have easy access to them.

“It’s no different from years ago when a woman would hold drugs for their men. They would do it for money. They would do it for love,’’ said Rollins. “Now they are holding these guns and they are doing it in the name of love.”

Kim Odom, who lost her 13-year-old son to violence, said some women feel a deep sense of commitment to their men, even the ones wrapped up in crime.

“They are of the mind-set that they are ‘ride-or-die chicks,’ ” Odom said. “These are young ladies who are willing to go all out for their boyfriends.”

This is just another kind of domestic violence.  Maybe more psychological than physical, but still domestic violence.  And like incidents of domestic violence which end either in death or injury to the woman or in which the woman ends up killing her abuser. [And yes, I do know that women can also be abuser, but men  still make up the vast majority.]

Over past year and a half Rollins and Odom have been training and educating women about the consequences of buying and stashing weapons. They urge women to make pledges to not hold or buy guns and warn them of the penalties if caught. For instance, a person who makes a straw purchase faces up to 10 years in prison under federal law, US authorities said.

Their effort, called Operation LIPSTICK, is run through Citizens for Safety, which has enlisted the help of local law enforcement and the mayor to press the issue. On Feb. 25, the group kicked off an ad campaign on the MBTA,  with placards on subway trains  declaring, “His Crime, Your Time — Holding His Gun Can Land You in Jail.”

Perhaps if we used some of the new technology that would prevent anyone but the gun purchaser from firing it, we would be able to cut down on some of the urban gun violence and some young women would be able to stay out of prison.  Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey has proposed a Smart Gun bill.  We should support it.

Photograph:  Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Globe story:  Meghan E. Irons

Kids and guns

Yesterday a nine year old boy was shot by his fourteen year old brother.  It is an old story here in Boston as well as throughout the country.  After every death, officials, neighbors, clergy vow “Never again.”  But it does happen again.  And again. We don’t know exactly what happened in that apartment in Mattapan, but there are some things we need to look at and questions we need to answer.  The Boston Globe story has some of the details.

In what police described as a horrific tragedy, a 9-year-old boy was shot and killed in his family’s Mattapan apartment by his 14-year-old brother Friday morning, anguishing neighbors and prompting a plea from the city’s mayor for residents to surrender unwanted guns.

Just before noon on a school day, the older brother was playing with a gun when it fired, striking the younger boy in the chest, police said. The boy was rushed to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The older boy left his Morton Street home, but was apprehended nearby still carrying the weapon police said was used to shoot his brother.

Question one:  Why weren’t the kids in school?  At least one of the schools left a message that the child was not in school, but the mother evidently wasn’t home.

Police investigating the fatal shooting of a Mattapan boy outside the Morton Street home where he was shot.

Police investigating the fatal shooting of a Mattapan boy outside the Morton Street home where he was shot.

Authorities charged the 14-year-old with unlawful gun possession and involuntary manslaughter, saying that he was handling the gun recklessly when it fired.

There was no evidence that anyone else in the home knew he had the gun, they said.

Authorities were quick to call the shooting an apparent accident, but homicide detectives continued their investigation Friday.

But was it an accident?  I’m not so sure.

Last June, police responded to the same address for a domestic violence report in which the 14-year-old allegedly slapped his younger brother in the face and threw him to the ground. His older teenage sister told police that he then pushed his mother to the ground and threatened to kill her.

In a police report on that visit, the sister stated the brother had “been very aggressive toward the family lately and that this was not the first time the police were called to their residence.”

The mother also told police that it was “not the first time” she had problems with her 14-year-old, according to the report. The older brother was charged with assault in the June incident.

Neighbors and police also said that officers had been previously called to the three-decker on Morton Street because of loud parties and, in one case, a shooting.

Question two:  Why were there no places to which the police could refer the boy?  We know that the Massachusetts Department for Children and Families is under a lot of scrutiny right now but we also know that generally the social workers are underpaid and overworked.  I expect that the independent study of DCF will show this.  DCF has refused comment on this incident.

At the scene, Mayor Martin J. Walsh called the death a tragedy and urged residents to turn in guns to police.

“A 14-year-old should not have access to a gun,” he said. “There are far too many guns in our streets.”

“I’m calling for the community to step up to the plate and report these guns. Parents, siblings — we need to get these guns off the street,” he added.

Daniel Conley, the Suffolk district attorney, said investigators would work to determine how the boy acquired the weapon.

“In the meantime, I want to make something crystal clear: If you know about an illegal firearm in this city, help us prevent another tragedy like this one,” he said.

Even my own state representative, Gloria Fox, called for tighter gun control measures.  Massachusetts already has some of the stricter laws, but this doesn’t seem to have really dealt with the problem.

Question 3:  Mayor Walsh has talked about treatment for all victims of gun and street violence.  Why didn’t he use this opportunity to call for more programs instead of asking people to turn in their weapons?

Yes, guns are a problem, but what troubles me about this incident is that there were clear warning signs.  We don’t know yet if there was any attempt at intervention, but I wonder if a nine-year old really had to die.

Photograph:  David L Ryan/Globe Staff

If you have a gun…

If you decided to own a gun, you may be certain that you are someone who will store and use it safely, that it will not be used except for (hunting, self-defense, target shooting).  But we are realizing what has probably always been true:  If you own a gun, you really don’t have control over how or when it is used.

We can begin with Columbine.  The weapons used were in a locked gun cabinet broken into by the two teenaged shooters.  I’m sure that the grandfather thought they were safe.  I haven’t seen any stories yet about the Newtown shooter and how he and his mother stored their many guns.  I imagine that she thought they were safe until she was shot with one of them.  Reading the column in the New York Times yesterday by Joe Nocera and listening to the speeches at the NRA convention made me realize that there are parallel worlds here and maybe they will never meet.

Nocera writes about two incidents.  The first happened last year.

On the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2012, Greg Imhoff — a big, friendly 61-year-old construction superintendent from Madison, Wis., who had moved to Florida with his partner, Shari Telvick — went to check on the home of a neighbor.

The neighbor, Richard Detlor, was a friend, someone Imhoff had known back in Madison, where the Detlors still lived for part of the year. Whenever the Detlors went back to Wisconsin, Imhoff would look in on their house, something he did for many of his neighbors.

It is impossible to know whether, on that August afternoon, Imhoff ever saw the stranger in the house with the .22 caliber revolver; all we know for sure is that Imhoff was shot in the head. When Telvick and a friend found him that evening, he was lying in a pool of blood, dead.

The killer turned out to be a man named Billy Ray Retherford, who was on the lam after killing a woman two weeks earlier and was hiding in the Detlors’ empty home. The next day, Retherford was killed in a shootout with the police. He was using the same .22 handgun.

The gun, however, was not his. It belonged to Richard Detlor, who, according to the police report, had left it, loaded, in the nightstand by his bed before departing for Wisconsin several months earlier.

Gregory Imhoff (Photograph from online obituary)

Gregory Imhoff
(Photograph from online obituary)

OK.  So Detlor probably thought the gun was safe even though he didn’t unload it and lock it up.  I know the argument:  If the gun isn’t loaded then it really isn’t any good for self-defense in the case of a home invasion.  Same with trigger locks.  But what about the various technologies that could prevent anyone by Detlor from firing it?  How can one be opposed to that?  Want your wife to be able to use it if you aren’t around?  I don’t know for sure, but I imagine there is technology to allow that, too.  In Florida, safe storage laws apply only when there is a minor in the household so leaving a loaded, unsecured weapon in an empty house is not illegal.  But it is stupid.

And you have the two year old killed by her five year old brother.

Just the other day, in Burkesville, Ky., a 5-year-old boy shot and killed his 2-year-old sister with a small rifle that had been given to him as a present. Who gives a 5-year-old a gun? (The rifle is called a Crickett; incredibly, it is marketed specifically to children.) Who leaves the room where their children are playing without checking whether the rifle in the corner is loaded? For that matter, who puts a shotgun within such easy reach of a child?

Gary White, the county coroner, was quick to say that no charges would be brought because it was an accident — and, after all, “accidents happen.” But it was a completely preventable accident. When a passenger dies in a car accident that is the result of negligence, there are usually serious legal consequences for the driver. If we really want to reduce gun violence, there must be consequences for negligent gun owners, too. The entire culture of gun ownership has to begin emphasizing safety in a way it doesn’t now. It is as important as universal background checks, or limits on magazine rounds.

And her family says that it was an accident and that she is with God.  Gun deaths and hunting accidents may be part of rural life, but does that mean things can never be different?

We are clearly living in a parallel universe and I’m not sure what we can do to make the lines meet.  Perhaps beginning with changes in the laws relating to negligence would be a place to start.

The NRA shield for schools

I have to say that the NRA plan for school safety made my husband apoplectic.  He’s been asking loud questions ever since it was released.  Questions like:  How many schools are there in the country?  How many armed officers would you need?  Who is going to pay for this?

According to the New York Times, the answer to the last question is us taxpayers.

The task force panel called on the Departments of Homeland Security, Education and Justice to coordinate school safety efforts and provide grant money for schools to assess their ability to prevent and respond to attacks. It recommended that officers or employees who are armed take a 40- to 60-hour training course to be developed by the rifle association based on a model the task force has designed.

The group also called on states to require schools to develop security plans.

But how and whether the task force recommendations will be put into effect — and the cost — was unclear.

Maybe gun owners should pay a surtax when they purchase/register weapons and ammunition.

The only way to reduce the danger that weapons pose to schoolchildren, to shoppers at malls, to bystanders, to movie goers, to law enforcement officials is to enact stricter gun safety laws.

This chart was in an article published by Atlantic Cities and is from a study done by Boston Childrens Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Gun safety map The study found that states with the strictest gun control laws had lower rates of gun-related homicides and suicides, though it notes that these findings are limited to associations and could not determine precise cause-and-effect. Gun-related deaths were measured per 100,000 people for both homicides and suicides based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, controlling for other factors thought to be associated with gun deaths including age, sex, race and ethnicity, poverty, unemployment, college education, population density, other violence-related deaths, and firearm ownership.

This is contrary to what many gun rights activists believe.

I believe that we need fewer guns around, not more.  While I was writing this word came of a lock down on the University of Rhode Island campus because someone had evidently waved a gun at a lecture and then left the room.  If the NRA gets its way, we will have guns all around us and how will we be able to tell who is a lunatic wanting to kill everyone and who is just a lunatic?

Impeaching President Obama?!

Every time I think that the Republican party has reached the apex of craziness something else happens.  Have the Republican’s who have called for President Obama’s impeachment over his 23 Executive Orders to promote gun safety and curb gun violence actually read them?  I know anyone who wants to impeach him will not read this blog, but here is the complete list as posted on the Wonkblog:

The White House also announced 23 executive orders on guns and gun violence that Obama would sign immediately:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

I think the NRA wanted more cops at schools.  That is #18.  A cop at a school is a resource officer who is especially trained to be around kids and knows what to do in a school setting.  See also #19.  They also wanted more emphasis on mental health issues.  Look at #17, #20, #21, and #22.

Here are the pictures of those who, as of today, are supporting impeachment I guess because they got some of what they wanted.   Remember impeachment begins in the House.  These were posted by Think Progress.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX)

Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese (R)

And I’m sure there will be more to add.  Like Senator Rand Paul.

Like I said, it just gets crazier.