Beyond The Watch List

ETA: As Botsplainer relates in this comment, there is already federal law on gun ownership and domestic violence:  if you’ve been convicted of misdemeanor or felony domestic violence, you can’t own a gun. In certain circumstances and in some states that applies to those under restraining orders.  The law is far from comprehensive, though. For example, partner violence in a couple that hasn’t lived together/shared a child falls through its cracks.

Current law also depends on some basic functions at the state level that don’t always happen, including proper updating of lists of domestic violence convictions/restraining orders so as to invoke the federal ban when an offender sets out to buy weapons.

To be clear: I erred in my first pass at this, caught up in my generalized anger, and I apologize for the mistake.  At the same time a deepened, broadened and intensified approach to the new law that is needed and the application of existing law around guns and domestic violence is absolutely needed.

Back to a corrected version of your previously scheduled program:

I’ve my doubts whether this time will be different, but there are some signs that the Orlando massacre will persuade some (I hope enough) of the GOP of the need for the first baby steps towards a useful gun control regime.

But denying guns to those on the terror watch or no-fly lists — and even a much-less-likely assault weapon ban — will still leave an enormous gateway to murderous violence to be dealt with:

When Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, analyzed F.B.I. data on mass shootings from 2009 to 2015, it found that 57 percent of the cases included a spouse, former spouse or other family member among the victims — and that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.

It is, as always, important to note that correlation does not equal cause. As


Reporter Amanda Taub writes,

There are, of course, a tangle of factors behind every murder, especially terrorism inspired by foreign groups. But research on domestic violence hints at a question that often surrounds seemingly inexplicable events like Mr. Mateen’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub — what drives individuals to commit such mass attacks? — and sheds light on the psychology of violence.

That is, as Taub argues:

Terrorist attacks and mass shootings garner attention and frighten the public much more than episodes of domestic violence. But domestic violence has a much higher death toll in the United States.

According to the Violence Policy Center, 895 women in the United States were murdered by their current or former intimate partners in 2013 (and this does not include those killed amid mass shootings). That single-year tally is more than nine times the 92 people the New American Foundationhas counted as killed in jihadist attacks on American soil in the past decade.

But there are striking parallels between the intimate terrorism of domestic violence and the mass terrorism perpetrated by lone-wolf attackers like Mr. Mateen. Both, at their most basic level, are attempts to provoke fear and assert control.

Most chilling, this informed speculation:

Paul Gill, a senior lecturer at University College London who studies the behavior of lone-actor terrorists, said that violence was, in a sense, a learned psychological skill: “Having a history of violence might help neutralize the natural barriers to committing violence.”

From that perspective, domestic violence can be seen as a psychological training ground for someone like Mr. Mateen to commit a mass attack.

Read the whole thing — and for a lagniappe, check out Nancy LeTourneau’s gloss on Taub’s piece over at The Washington Monthly.

Here I just want to add to minimal list of necessary gun control measures: full enforcement and extension of federal law prohibiting access to guns — including seizure of weapons already in possession* — not only for convicted domestic abusers, but also and urgently for anyone subject to a restraining order.  As noted in the correction at the top of this piece, there are gaps in the current legal and enforcement system that helps deepen the misery of our existing domestic partner violence.  (See, e.g., this story.)

This shouldn’t be controversial:  if the threat you pose has risen to the level that a judge is willing to bar you from your home and partner and/or family — then the threat is too high to leave you with such ready means to kill.

*this is one of the areas of concern in current law.

Image: David Remeeus, Portrait of a lady with a gold chain and pistol-shaped charm 1597.

54 replies
  1. 1
    Mnemosyne says:

    I have to admit, finding out that Mateen had been accused of domestic violence by his first wife and that he had frequented that nightclub, I would not be surprised to find out that at least one of the victims had dated him, or that he expected an ex to be there. Sadly, domestic violence is not the exclusive province of straight people.

  2. 2
    aimai says:

    Tom, I could not agree more. I think that, historically and socially speaking, we were never going to get any movement on gun control outside of the language of anti Islamic Terrorism, but its unfortunate that what needs to happen in terms of gun control really needs to happen is control of all sorts of weapons because of primarily domestic concerns: domestic violence, hate crimes against women, African Americans, Minorities, LGBTQ people, etc…etc…etc…

    Like a lot of other people I think we have to face the fact that the Second Amendment makes it very hard to end private gun ownership–absent a full turnover of the Supreme Court. And trying to do anything via the amendment process is like a poison pill for the Democrats. Instead we need to take a leaf from the right wing and chip away at gun ownership in any and every way we can. Stronger storage laws. Pushing for insurance–homeowners insurance should not insure people who own unsecured or unregistered guns. If you can’t account for your guns and you can’t protect children, teenagers, the elderly from guns you are improperly storing you should not be able to get homeowner’s insurance. There should be civil and insurance liability for crimes and accidents or suicides committed with your gun. There should be a tax on bullets and a tax on NRA membership to raise funds for the funerals and other necessities for people killed with guns. Things like that.

  3. 3
    Susan K of the tech support says:

    (yes, this is about the No Fly list, which is the minimal beachhead in the long struggle for policy territory.) Since there’s a filibuster on the Senate floor right now, I’ve called both my senators to declare my support of the filibuster AND to say that since everyone is talking about the No Fly List as a locus of first agreement, I also said we must ensure that there’s good Due Process in the NoFly list.

  4. 4
    Hungry Joe says:

    “Confiscation” is a trigger word — I think a lot of people stop listening if they hear it, or even IMAGINE they hear it. (Middle-of-the-night pounding on the door, gov’t thugs, jackboots, etc.) Instead, make possession of semi-automatic and large-magazine weapons a felony. You’ve got 90 days to turn them in; after that, you’re a felon-in-waiting. No house-to-house searches or anything like that, but you damn well better not be caught with one.

    I’d even support a buy-back program. A lot of these ammo bros are living paycheck-to-food-stamp and might be more willing to part with their Loved Ones if offered a couple hundred bucks.

  5. 5
    Tom Levenson says:

    @aimai: Yup. Time for an ALEC-of-the-left to produce model laws to introduce in any state legislature that offers an opening.

    I’m up for a strongly state-by-state/regional approach as well. If the infrastructure of gun regulation exists in MA, CT and RI — that creates a nucleus. Add NY…and keep going until significant areas of the country impose a real demand for responsibility in responsible gun ownership. We’ll see, I believe, a sharper contrast in gun violence than the one that already exists between, say, the relatively regulated northeast and the old Confederacy.

  6. 6
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Hungry Joe: So, “sequester” domestic violence/restraining order guns. How’s that.

  7. 7
    cckids says:

    So, Senate Democrats are filibustering business until gun control is talked about? Is this still going on? MSNBC was covering it, but cut away (of course) to show Trump’s latest diatribe live.

  8. 8
    JPL says:

    @Tom Levenson: Just require the accused to turn in their weapons or face jail time.

  9. 9
    Miss Bianca says:

    I was going to say “I’m so glad that domestic violence is finally being taken seriously as a criterion for gun ownership (or not)”, only to realize that of course, I’m not glad about any of this. Still, it’s a start.

    @aimai: I agree with everything you say here (does that make me a dittohead?).

  10. 10
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Susan K of the tech support: THIS. Due process needs to be embedded in all measures that are proclaimed to be “anti-terrorism” in an effort to wave away due process, which is what we saw during the deserting coward malassministration.

    The fact of the matter is that no one needs a semi-automatic weapon except as a counter to another semi-automatic weapon, and a poor counter at that, because it cannot protect you, it can only allow you to return fire in a desperate attempt at suppression.

  11. 11
    Mary G says:

    Senator Chris Murphy is filibustering now demanding gun measures. He is one of my favorite Senators.

  12. 12
    JPL says:

    @cckids: CSPAN is covering it. Connecticut is lucky to have Chris Murphy.

  13. 13
    Botsplainer, Cryptofascist Tool of the Oppressor Class says:

    Actually, 18 USC 922 prohibits transferring a firearm or ammunition to anyone subject to restrictions under any form of a domestic violence protective order. In my state, there is an automatic confiscation order that goes out with the initial emergency order, and you don’t get yer precious gunz back until it is dismissed or expired OR someone else can show ownership.

    Here in the People’s Democratic Soc!alist Kenyan Shariah Republic of Louisville, the sheriffs and cops do go out of their way to inquire and search for those precious gunz, something they tend not to be quite as diligent about out in the hinterlands (after all, a man has to hunt, and protect himself, and shoot cans, and shoot snakes, and shoot buzzards, and hell, Deputy Jim Bob went to high school with Billybubba and that bitch of a babymomma he done married and everybody just knowed she was mean and a drama queen and always said she was going to get his granddaddy’s squirrel piece taken away)….

  14. 14
    Tom Levenson says:

    @JPL: Especially considering the GOP alternative that year.

  15. 15
    Mike J says:

    @Susan K of the tech support:

    I also said we must ensure that there’s good Due Process in the NoFly list.

    And we won’t get due process until the NRA says it’s important.

  16. 16
    gogol's wife says:

    @Mary G:

    He’s my senator! The other senator and the governor ain’t bad either.

    @Mnemosyne: OT, but very cool LMM/Kail news.

  17. 17
    elm says:

    I’m open to and accepting of any and all measures to limit anti-personnel weapon transfers and possession.

    I would also accept mandatory insurance and strict liability for owners and sellers of all anti-personnel firearms.

    If an injury occurs with a firearm you own or sold, you’re liable for every injury it produces. Pro-rate liability over 5 years after any transfer (sale, gift, or theft).

  18. 18
    Percysowner says:

    @cckids: The filibuster is continuing they are livestreaming over at Mother Jones.

  19. 19
    Arclite says:

    If we couldn’t get it done after Sandy Hook, the Pulse shooting won’t change anything. There’s only scenario in which congress passes legislation on something like this: a shooting at the capitol building in which several congress members die. The congress passes laws A) when they’re paid to by lobbyists or B) when something affects them directly. Of course, such a tragedy would be horrific, as all of these have been, but then there’d be actual action taken.

  20. 20
    raven says:

    A friend posted a picture on an empty upper deck at Trumps rally at the Fox in ATL.

  21. 21
    Botsplainer, Cryptofascist Tool of the Oppressor Class says:


    If we couldn’t get it done after Sandy Hook, the Pulse shooting won’t change anything.

    Unless the NRA is trying to fluff Trump as someone who can get them to move on measures that have a reasonably broad consensus approval. It could be a ratfuck.

  22. 22
    gex says:


    Update 1:40 pm: BFD – Joe Manchin (D-WV) is on the floor talking about why a Senator from a state with a strong gun culture supports these actions.


  23. 23
    cckids says:

    @JPL: Thank you!

  24. 24
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Arclite: Understandable cynicism, but I’m not sure I agree. The Pulse shooting differs from the Sandy Hook atrocity in significant ways, most notably, its connection to terrorism. GWB proved that Americans will swallow all sorts of civil liberties infringements and inconveniences if they’re sufficiently frightened.

    Secondly, it gave PBO and other prominent Democrats a nationwide megaphone to make a point they’ve been making forever: The NRA and Republicans have worked to preserve suspected terrorists’ access to guns. That’s so insane that most people didn’t even believe it was true before — I’ve made that point in IRL debates with gun nuts, and they did not believe me. Now it’s undeniable.

    We probably won’t get much done to move the needle on gun control, but maybe this one incidence of gaping stupidity can be addressed. Here’s hoping.

  25. 25
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mike J: The NRA is a terrorist organization. Treat them as such.

  26. 26
    Starfish says:

    I am wondering if you read the Post and Courier series Til Death Do Us Part that won the Pulitzer in 2015. A lot of deaths were due to not taking guns away from people who had restraining orders against them.

  27. 27

    I doubt we will get gun legislation out of this. Maybe, maybe if the legislation is wildly and obviously racist. I don’t agree that the problem is the NRA. I think the problem is Cleek’s Law. Most Republicans support gun control in theory, but their priority is making sure liberals get no victories in anything, ever again. As far as they’re concerned, minorities are far too terrifyingly close with equal to white Christian males as it is. (Yes, from anyone else’s standpoint that’s laughable.)

    You brought up ‘chipping away.’ It seems to me that for forty years chipping away was something conservatives could do, and liberals couldn’t, because the Supreme Court is the ultimate decider in that process. They struck down liberal laws bit by bit, and upheld conservative laws the same way. Now we’ve reached parity, and soon the process will reverse.

    In general, I think we’ll only see real progress on gun laws when the Republican Party loses power on a broad scale, like how basically everything improved in California.

  28. 28
    MD Rackham says:

    @Tom Levenson: Maybe having the guns be made to “secede” from their owners would be a more acceptable term.

  29. 29
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Hahahahaha! And the total seating capacity at the Fox is only 4,678! Hope that photo goes viral (alternatively, that you can capture and share a link here).

  30. 30

    Treat gun owners/stores/makes like the Right has treated abortion providers until we can finally repeal the goddamned Second Amendment.

    It’s literally the least we can do.

  31. 31
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    Nope. Sorry but local, state and even regional laws will actually work against us. Most of the guns confiscated in NYC are purchased in Virginian and North Carolina. Most of the guns seized by police in Chicago come from one store in Wisconsin. Ammosexuals are often heard to proclaim that NYC and Chicago have tough laws but not a reduction in gun violence. There would be a lot more of that if we went on a piecemeal campaign.

  32. 32

    […] Botsplainer relates in this comment to the mirror post over at Balloon Juice, there is already federal law on gun ownership and […]

  33. 33
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Botsplainer, Cryptofascist Tool of the Oppressor Class: Fixed. Thanks for the correction.

  34. 34
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Starfish: Didn’t. Will.

  35. 35
    catclub says:

    @raven: There was a recent posting here comparing pictures of Trump’s crowd with one of Obama’s in 2008,
    I think Philadelphia.
    Obama’s dwarfed his.

  36. 36
  37. 37
    Susan K of the tech support says:

    @Mike J:

    And we won’t get due process until the NRA says it’s important.

    Assuming that there’s a win, here, and that this moment and filibuster (and even Trump said he supports this, oh my!) establishes this beachhead, then maybe the NRA will get behind due process for the no-fly list. (can you imagine? NRA and ACLU on same side of an issue!)

  38. 38
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Schlemazel Khan: Two out of three gun deaths are suicides. A substantial proportion of homicides — low double figures, I believe — are domestic violence murders. Serious gun regulation can help with both of those. and there’s even data!. Again, the data aren’t dispositive, but they are strongly suggestive. And they aren’t better at least in part because the gun-nut caucus in Congress has for two decades blocked federal research into gun violence as a public health concern.

  39. 39
    Tom Levenson says:

    @raven: What’s the current over/under on whether or not Trump makes it to Cleveland?

  40. 40
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Thank you. I’m LOLing.

  41. 41
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    You are aware of the Gun Owners of America? They are relatively new on the scene (3-4 years) who feel that the NRA are a bunch of sell outs.

  42. 42
    Mike in NC says:

    First step to bringing back an assault rifle ban is electing Secretary Clinton and giving her a Democrat-controlled Senate in 2016. Maybe by 2020 we can retake the House. Until then there is only more GOP obstructionism.

  43. 43
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    Don’t judge by using Drumpfs hands, they are too tiny for accurate guesstimates.

  44. 44
    raven says:

    @Tom Levenson: Depends on what means “makes it”!

  45. 45
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    That is all true but does not change my point. Local governments have passed laws regulating gun ownership and the resulting continued gun violence is used by the gundemntalists as proof all gun laws do not work.

  46. 46
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    @Mike in NC:
    Additionally, ban removable magazines. Rifles can be retrofitted to prevent removal. Also limit magazine size. That will reduce the events like Pulse greatly and reduce the number killed when there is a shooting.

  47. 47
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Schlemazel Khan: I know. But on balance, the evidence strongly suggests that gun regulation at the state level can make those states safer. Expanding gun regulation in the most friendly states helps create a model environment. If we can get comprehensive federal law to do the job, great! But after decades, I’ll try it at any level of government we can get. (Also, should add, I’m totally on board with a “responsibility” agenda that includes insurance requirements and stiff consquences for misuse, accidental or otherwise of guns in one’s possesion — by anyone.)

  48. 48
    les says:

    How about this, for starters: treat guns like cars.
    First, you have to have an owner’s license; at least as hard to get as a driver’s license.
    Next, every gun has to be “titled;” in owner’s name, serial number, purchase date, etc.
    Next, every gun has to be insured.
    Next, the owner is responsible for damage done by a gun titled to him. Next time little Johnny offs his neighbor playing with Daddy’s gun, “they’ve suffered enough” doesn’t get it.
    No transfer of a gun unless to a licensed owner, with title transfer. No title transfer, liability stays with original owner.

    Yeah, we need to get some kinds of weapons totally off the street. But we don’t need some hi-tech informed meta discussion to get going.

  49. 49
    Trollhattan says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    Fascinating/telling that many states have gunshot fatality totals higher than traffic fatalities, twenty-one of them. Advances in car design and highway/street engineering have given us a continuously lower death rate per miles driven. If there were only some way that firearm fatalities could also see a progressively lower fatality rate. If only….

  50. 50
    PatrickG says:

    @Susan K of the tech support: Thanks for the impetus. I’ve called both Boxer’s and Feinstein’s DC offices to urge the same (support for the ongoing filibuster AND judicial review of the No Fly List)

  51. 51
    Arclite says:

    @les: Makes sense.

  52. 52
    Trollhattan says:

    It’s certainly the case if you leave a car with the keys in it/easily available, someone takes it without your permission and has a wreck or commits a crime, you can be held liable. IDK why there is such a thing as an “accidental shooting.” Every such accident has a preventable cause. Every one.

  53. 53
    J R in WV says:


    This is a common sense and level headed plan. Doing it just like cars means no re-inventing the wheel, just implementing roundness in a different flavor.

    One factual point, in many states there is currently no such thing as “registered guns” – here in WV no one tracks guns, although there is the standard federal background check to buy a gun from a licensed dealer. I don’t know how long that federal database keeps those records, IIRC they may be purged or archived after some set period. But I can’t register a gun, there is no one here that does that.

    I was surprised to learn that in North Carolina you need a permit from your county sheriff to purchase a gun. There’s nothing like that here, and I’m sure the same is true in many states.

    I’m good with the plan to register/license gun transactions as described in the post above, it seems like common sense enough for many gun owners to feel comfortable with. Although there are a lot of true ammosexuals who believe that the government’s black helicopters are already tracking their every thought, and those folk are lost to rational rule-making.

  54. 54
    Susan K of the tech support says:

    @PatrickG: You’re welcome and thank you. (I hear some senators reading texts of messages and such on the floor. So calling helps. It helps it helps it helps.)

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