Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Guns and divorce

Divorces are messy. Sometimes they lead to one party getting shot to death. These type of shootings happen almost every day in America. The shooting in Yuma, Arizona that left 6 people dead came about as the result of a man angry with his ex-wife and her friends and lawyer years after their divorce. The story is a bit confusing but it sounds as if this couple had a lot of trouble with both filing orders for protection against the other. There was no indication that the trouble would end in the deaths of 6 people. The shooter must have thought this out carefully as he went from one person to the next in his rampage. Most domestic homicides don't result in a spree shooting as this one did but many domestic violence shootings are the outcome of contentious divorces. That is why my sister is dead. That is why way too many women are dead. Often the shooter kills himself as well.

The South Carolina Attorney General's Violence Against Women Department collects statistics about domestic violence leading to homicide and homicide/suicide. From the study, " Men who are driven to murder-suicide are obsessed and controlling, leading them to take drastic measures when women decide to leave, experts in domestic violence say." And this seems to fit with other known information about domestic homicides: " The most common characteristics of murder-suicide in families are a prior history of domestic violence, access to guns, increased, specific threats and a prior history of poor mental health or substance abuse, according to the National Institute of Justice, which researches crime for the U.S. Department of Justice." Not surprisingly, the state of South Carolina found that guns are a definite factor. " In 591 murder-suicides studied by the U.S. Justice Department, 92 percent were committed with guns. And states with less restrictive gun control laws had nearly eight times the rate of murder-suicide than other states." 

Keeping to the subject of messy divorces and shooting deaths and injuries, this off duty Roanoke, Virginia police officer took matters into his own hands and shot his ex-wife over some apparent simmering issues from his 2005 divorce and custody of their children. Police officers are subject to marital difficulties just like anyone else and not immune from dealing with their own problems in violent ways. The officer apparently followed his ex-wife into a parking lot and shot her unexpectedly and in cold blood and then fled. She didn't have a chance to get away or try to defend herself. As it happens, this is often the scenario in domestic shootings. 

Common sense tells us that guns are too easy to use during arguments and/or cases of domestic disputes and they are more lethal than other methods. Divorce is a volatile time for couples and families. We all know people who have divorced their husband/wife where the result was not violent, but certainly unsettling and difficult. A range of emotions and feelings accompany the break-up of a marriage. Many factors lead to the anger and/or depression that cause men ( the perpetrators are mostly men) to take the life of a spouse, girlfriend or partner and sometimes himself. Families and couples going through these difficult times should be aware of firearms in the home and making sure they are locked or temporarily removed from the home during a volatile break-up. Women need to be more aware of the possibility of the use of a firearm against them in a difficult divorce. The most common response when a woman hasn't been directly threatened with a gun is that it just couldn't happen to her. Surely her spouse or partner wouldn't do anything that violent until, of course, he does. In some cases the shooting comes out of nowhere in a break-up that hasn't necessarily involved violent behavior. 

Each individual in a relationship should be aware of the laws in their own state regarding restraining orders, orders for protection and gun rights in the case of a restraining order. In my volunteer work at the local Family Justice Center for abused women, I learned that awareness has increased regarding the potential for violence with a firearm and judges are looking more seriously at temporarily removing guns from abusers. This is not an easy issue. Sometimes the abuser gets more angry when his guns are removed. My local law enforcement officials have told me that they are running out of storage space for these guns because they have so many crime guns in their storage rooms. These are just a few of the issues. We all know that non-violence is the solution but human nature doesn't always work in predictable ways. Working towards common sense solutions however can save lives. I don't have all the answers. But I do know how a gun in the hands of a depressed and angry man who was upset over divorce proceedings that dragged on for years ended the life of my sister. Divorce cases that end in a shooting are tragic, senseless, preventable and avoidable.


  1. "This is not an easy issue. Sometimes the abuser gets more angry when his guns are removed."

    And sometimes there is no abuser, there's simply a woman or a woman's lawyer who knows that there's next-to-no due process in domestic abuse claims.

    False claims of domestic abuse are common. Unfortunately, domestic abuse is also common.

    There was a time when legitimate domestic abuse claims were rarely made, because domestic abuse claims were rarely successful. Now false domestic abuse claims are commonly made, because domestic abuse claims are almost always successful.

    I'd love to be made aware of a mechanism by which we could ensure that legitimate claims weren't ignored while also ensuring the false claims never succeed. But I haven't much hope that such a thing is possible.

    In this, as in so much else, public policy is a rather crude tool where no matter where we put the balance, there will always be injustice on both sides.

  2. Yes, jdege, I agree with you partially. I would hate to see false claims of abuse made and I am aware that those do happen. But at least now we have places where women ( and it is mostly women) can go to tell their stories and it is up to the people listening and recording and the judicial system to determine the veracity of the stories. I would like to err on the side of safety but also not have someone suffer from being falsely accused. Mostly what I have seen is the fear when women walk into the Family Justice Center and the relief they feel when they know that someone can record their story and help them.

  3. "Mostly what I have seen is the fear when women walk into the Family Justice Center and the relief they feel when they know that someone can record their story and help them."

    I don't doubt that you've seen exactly that. But have you seen people's lives destroyed by false accusations?

    I've seen both.

    It's my experience that our legal system primarily operates to the benefit of our lawyers. That organizations like the Family Justice Center primarily serve the needs of the workers at the Family Justice Center, and that any "justice" is almost accidental.

  4. No jdege, the Family Justice Centers do amazing work. I have seen women get services there that they could not have received any where else and mostly free of charge to them. I am very impressed with how much the center has changed the lives of the women who come there. I just don't get it when you say things like your last sentence there. Up until that point, I agreed with you.

  5. Thank you, Japete.

    Last year we had a man here in my area who was so distraught over his divorce that he shot to death his two little girls before taking his own life.

    Sadly, there's not much anyone can do to prevent this other that to urge family and friends to take whatever action they can to help the (ex-)couple and urge them to remove firearms from their home until things cool down.

    One thing that can be done, as you mentioned, is to require the forced but temporary removal of guns when there's a restraining order. Yes, in a few cases the restraining order may not have been warranted, but in most they clearly are, and this step will save lives.

  6. In Ohio, if there is a domestic restraining order, the 'restrained' can be ordered to not buy nor own a firearm, but it is just a piece of paper

    First, I'd like the see the woman leave the area until the threat passes but that is not always possible. Real life does not always off the idealoptions. If this is not possible, then her arming herself is the only way for her to have a fighting chance against someone hell bent on murder.

    Ohio recognizes this and has a category to issue a temporary carry permit for someone under threat.

    The cops can not be there forever nor 24/7. She must work. Her kids must travel to known locations. Life must go on.

    I hate the very thought of men behaving this way, but they do and being able to defend yourself is the only way to increase your odds of surviving an attack by a larger predator. That piece of paper will not stop a fist, a knife, a bat or a bullet.

    A gun however, will level the playing field against all of those forms of attack. Unless we are willing to lock up anyone that has a restraining order issued against them, it will always be so.

    Damn, that's a depressing thought.

  7. DV is a terrible thing. I have seen the results of it for most of my life (my father is a minister and we often dealt with those issues in the congregation, or more properly, the congregation often brought those who were suffering from it to the attention of the church, be the victims members or not).

    I will say that we saw more than a couple of Husbands who were victims. We saw more children who were victims of either parent. Arbitrarily blaming the man does neither side any good.

    I saw many times where clearly guns were present, but never used. blaming the gun does neither side any good. I saw many times and heard of many more where the stories changed dramatically during the period the issue was being adjudicated.

    A great deal of the frustration is caused by the Courts. Yup, the very organization that tries to help often causes the most frustration because the blamed (guilty or not) feels no recourse.

    Take a person's family away without setting up some sort of attempts at reconciliation sets factors in to action that no one likes.

    I have seen families resort to emotional blackmail to keep "the family" together. I have seen families in denial about all sorts of behaviors on both sides and twice this has resulted in violence. I have heard and seen the story "they were just asking for it, the way they (kept the house, raised the kids, never got a better job, talked back, failed to assert his/her role, left the Church, cheated, ignored, carried on, made more money, spent less money, pick one or more)" used as justification. I have been witness to one victim being told by the in laws, it was their fault, because they did not pray hard enough for forgiveness.

    Family dynamics are a major contributing factor, far more than any single piece of hardware.
    I have seen children used as tools against each other, I have seen parents try to turn children against the other in the most distasteful manners. When people are seeing their whole world dissolve around them, the last things needed are more stresses and more heartbreaks.

    If we are to realistically reduce the rate of Domestic Violence, we need to look as a society at the root causes, the mitigating and/or contributing factors and try to break down our pre conceived notions of what makes good sense and seriously reorder our methods.

    Stopping domestic violence requires a major change in how its handled, how its treated after the initial confrontation and how its adjudicated before the courts.

    There is no other way.

    Only a multiphasic response will work.

    This is not a gun control issue. Its a societal issue. Addressing it as a gun control issue will accomplish nothing, and most likely contribute to the problem.

    Again. Dealing with DV as a gun control issue is in all probability contributing to the problem.

  8. Peter- I think it's all of the above. DAIP- Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, on whose Board I serve, is a model for how to deal with domestic abuse from a broad point of view. The Duluth Model is known around the world for how to deal with abusers at the point of abuse. Once the court has ordered that the men ( and yes, it is mostly men) must attend programs for men who abuse to learn new patterns of behavior. It is a very interesting and successful model. In addition, there is a family center where there can be safe exchanges of children for the families and a safe place for the fathers to come to be with their children and re-establish relationships with their own kids while they are under the court ordered program. So yes, I agree, this is more than a gun control issue- it is much much more. I am just saying that when a gun enters the picture, the whole situation changes and I, and the others with whom I work in many organizations want to make it harder for people to shoot their domestic partners, whichever sex they may be.

  9. An article in my morning paper has this headline. " Duluth man faces charges after standoff with police". A domestic incident resulted in a man with a gun in a standoff with police. His wife was heard screaming in the yard that someone was going to kill her. Children were rescued by police and the man finally dropped his rifle and was arrested.

  10. Having been abused for 20 plus years and told by my attorney and the mediator, not to talk about that that the cops and the judge would only laugh and I would end up paying more in slavery (aka alimony) money, I can understand the frustration. Domestic abuse against men goes largely unreported and unnoticed, in the UK 44% of domestic abuse cases are women abusing men. Abused men total 835k a year.
    In Dallas a man distraught over the slavery money forcing him into poverty used his car to exact revenge against his ex-wife before killing himself. My ex was fond of chasing me around with kitchen knives and cleavers and yet I don’t see anything about we more car control or kitchen utensils control. That said we do all understand that you need to pay the bills, heck Paul Hemke doesn’t make $238k a year to sit on his butt and he doesn’t pay you to do the same.

  11. It's my experience that our legal system primarily operates to the benefit of our lawyers. That organizations like the Family Justice Center primarily serve the needs of the workers at the Family Justice Center, and that any "justice" is almost accidental.

    This is often all too true. We don't do "justice" in America; we do "process." And we hope that something resembling justice comes out the other side.

  12. Pretty cynical anon. As to comments from previous anon, yes men are also abused. It is a silent problem. But the majority of DV is committed by men. Paul Helmke's salary is 1/4 of Wayne LaPiere and the other guys at the top of the NRA. FYI. I am not a paid employee of the Brady Campaign or any other GVP group. I am a volunteer

  13. "But the majority of DV is committed by men."

    If you were to say that the majority of DV that resulted in significant or severe injury, I'd accept that as true. It's far more common for a woman to be badly beaten by a man than the reverse.

    But absent that qualification, I'm not so sure. If you include in domestic violence incidents of screaming, slapping, and other behaviors that could be colored as violent, but cause no measurable physical damage, I don't think anyone has a clue as to what the "majority" is.

    And I'll argue that worrying about what the "majority" does is not only irrelevant, it's counter-productive. There's no such thing as a "typical" DV situation. Or even a DV situation. There are only people with problems.

    It's trying to fit people and their relationships and all of their complexities into intellectual straightjackets like "domestic violence" that is the primary reason why organizations that are supposed to be helping people go so badly wrong, so often.

  14. Mr La Pierres salary might be more, but he has many more times the membership, a much larger budget and he tells the truth.

    As to the alimony/Child support issue, in this day and economic conditions, it is a major causation of disputes.

  15. For whatever reason, you are the guys who want to argue about this.

  16. What are you implying Peter? If it's the tired old lline about gun control groups lying don't bother to comment because it won't be published and I won't get into a $&?:;;ing match with you.

  17. As to we are the guys arguing over it. We are not the ones who brought up the point. We simply are correcting some points you erred on

  18. Well thanks, Peter. I write this blog on purpose to lie to my readers and post a bunch of false facts even though I link to articles that show what is actually happening. Seriously, this is your opinion. You must know that many people actually agree with me and that must somehow threaten your world view or you wouldn't be trying to "correct" everything I write.

  19. I don't believe that was Peter's view, japete.

    I don't believe you lie, but some things you've said have been incorrect in the past. That's what most of the others are pointing out - not "correcting" but legitimate criticism of your claims.

    An example - a few topics back, someone from overseas asked what was so dangerous about the guns mislabeled "assault weapons", to which you gave a list from the Brady Campaign website.

    The thing is, of the numerous claims in that list, only one is fully accurate and two are partially accurate. The others have been repeatedly and undisputably proven false.

    Things like that are legitimate things to bring up, yet you seem to dislike retracting them, instead preferring to brush them off.

    Pretty much everyone here would love to see an end to criminal gun violence, but only if it is done responsibly - without restricting the law-abiding. It can't be denied that the example above is decidedly *not* responsible.

    I don't deny that you must have some support from the public, but wouldn't it be better if groups like the Brady Campaign had that support with the full facts?

  20. Please name the "inaccuracies" you found on the Brady website so we can all look at what you think are inaccuracies. We all know that the gun rights activists are always right and have all the facts?

  21. Ummm well for starters, the description of what makes them "assault weapons". Pretty much everything there is wrong.

    The whole " spray from the hip" statement is wrong. The "too inaccurate for sporting use" argument runs counter to the fact that one of the most popular classes of NRA target competitions is "service rifle"' where stock AR pattern rifles are used at ranges out to six hundred yards.

    The whole fixation on bayonet lugs and flash hiders is fantasy. Flash hiders are designed to do two things. Keep the muzzle flash from disrupting the shooters night vision in combat and to keep the muzzle vlast from raising dust when shot from the prone position giving away the shooters location. How does either of those contribute to criminal use of the weapon.

    The description of the rounds used by "assault weapons"'as overly powerful and body shredding is malarkey. The idea behind the military's use of assault weapons (real ones not the civilian versions which do not fire fully auto) was to create a lesser powered weapon smaller in size and lighter in weight than the existing battle rifles. The rifles of ALL. the major combatants in world war two are much more powerful than any "assault weapon" opposed by the Brady bunch.

    The fact is the Brady coalition gets most of it's "factual data" regarding firearms from Hollywood. Which means almost all of it data is erroneous.

    And just like Hollywood, the Brady Group does not want to be bothered by facts. It's an incontinent truth that six shooters only shoot six times. Or machine guns do not have three hundred shot magazines. Or cars that go off a cliff do not spontaneously explode in mid air because someone shot out a window. Holding a "Magnum" and pulling the trigger does not mean the bad guy will beograd off his feet and thrown backwards a dozen yards. Now will it knock a young starlet on her ass if she shoots it.

    Furthermore, according to the FBI, machine guns are almost NEVER used in crime. Statistically they don't exist. The long guns the Brady bunch has mislabeled assault weapons are used in only one or two percent of all crime, and in even less street crime. They are relatively rare, they are expensive and difficult to conceal and they do not fit the scope of most street thugs activities. But because they look scary and movie directors love to show images of prop guns firing unending streams of bullets, the law abiding Citizen is being smeared with a broad brush that somehow our firearms run out of the house on their own and do drive by's at the local day care for giggles.

    It's utter fantasy. And the Brady folks KNOW this. But it makes good copy and creates scary images that convince the uneducated that a drug lord is at this minute waiting to slaughter them and their family as soon as the stop at a gun show and buy unregistered, undocumented machine-guns.

    Again utter fantasy. But it's emotional and scary and the evening news loves the video of a machine gun chattering away while the voice over yaks on about a "assault weapon" ban getting another chance in congress.

  22. Honestly- most people just don't care about all of this stuff.And in the end, much of it doesn't matter. The general public does not like assault type guns and associate them with war or crime. I know you guys like them and don't have a problem with them but many people just plain don't care about guns and the details of them. No matter what the Brady Campaign does, you would not like it and find it wrong. It is a fact that criminals are using assault rifles on the streets and the police are outgunned. As I have said before, your world is quite different from mine and the many people who agree with me. That doesn't make you right and me wrong or vice versa. We disagree. But as long as we have the highest gun death rate in the civilized world, we will keep working to keep those guns from people who shouldn't have them. If you want your assault rifles, have fun. Lock them up so no one can steal them and use them for a crime.

  23. japete said... "If you want your assault rifles, have fun. Lock them up so no one can steal them and use them for a crime."

    And what percentage of crimes are committed with these stolen assault rifles? It seems the info I find says that a very very very small percentage of crimes are committed with all assault rifles. I would challenge you to find 10 examples of the criminal use of these stolen fully automatic weapons.

  24. Guns also *protect* people from unbalanced ex-husbands and wives. People who are attacked by their unbalanced ex's and are unarmed for whatever reason become worm food. People who have a gun available at least have a fighting chance. I don't understand why people on your side would rather have people turn into worm food than at least have the *opportunity* to get a gun and have a fighting chance to stay alive.

    The Brady Campaign - fighting to disarm victims since 1974 when it was called the "National Council to Control Handguns." Have you kept track of how many dead spouses your organization has caused by making it harder for them to protect themselves? Now, go ahead and delete this comment as you do all the others that are inconvenient for your organization.

  25. The above comment is why there is no sense in trying to discuss gun issues with some of the gun rights activists. " Worm food"? What does that mean exactly? As I have said over and over again, the element of surprise happens in most of the cases of domestic shootings. There is no way you can protect yourself when you don't expect someone to come from behind and shoot you. I know you guys think you can but even the gun toting soccer mom who made the news couldn't stop her husband from shooting her to death in a domestic dispute. She was sitting at her computer. Her gun was in her backpack. Her spouse surprised her and shot her to death.

    Secondly, the Brady Campaign was not the "National Council to Control Handguns" You made that up. It was once called, "Handgun Control, Inc." But nice try. The name was changed some years after Jim Brady was shot to death in honor of him and when his wife, Sarah, became involved in the issue for obvious reasons. As you also know, I am one of the places where your comments get published. Inconvenient? Not really. I don't publish comments that make no sense are provacative, rude, derogatory, overly accusatory or downright inappropriate. I also don't publish comments callling me names or a liar or are threatening in nature. You sound like a little kid who didn't get his way with your last sentence.

  26. "Secondly, the Brady Campaign was not the "National Council to Control Handguns" You made that up. It was once called, "Handgun Control, Inc." But nice try. "

    Yes, it was.

    Source: http://www.bradycampaign.org/about/history

    "Mark Borinsky, who had been robbed and nearly killed at gunpoint, founded the organization in 1974 as the National Council to Control Handguns. Pete Shields became Chairman in 1978 following the murder of his twenty-three-year-old son, Nick, in 1974. The organization was renamed Handgun Control, Inc (HCI) in 1980."

  27. "It is a fact that criminals are using assault rifles on the streets and the police are outgunned. As I have said before, your world is quite different from mine and the many people who agree with me."

    Police have access to automatic weapons and other weapons that most criminals do not utilize. I would not argue that police are outgunned - except in jurisdictions where city politicians have tied the hands of the police to be appropriately armed.

    This was a different story in the mid-late 1980s through the early 1990s when many police agencies were using revolvers and other underpowered weapons. That tide has now turned.


  28. "But as long as we have the highest gun death rate in the civilized world, we will keep working to keep those guns from people who shouldn't have them."

    So I think we're in agreement here -- I'm all for keeping the bad guys away from firearms. In exchange, your organization won't advocate for an assault weapons ban or magazine limitations that will impact law abiding citizens.

    Do we have a deal?


  29. I never knew it as the first organization. Sorry. I only became involved much later when the name was Handgun Control, Inc.

  30. Bryan- the police have had to catch up with the guns on the streets. Perhaps they now have more high powered weapons than they did before but they didn't really want to have them. They had to buy them to keep up with the weaponry used against them and others in our communities.

  31. As you know, Bryan, I don't make deals on this blog. If you are a law abiding citizen, any attempts to keep those same weapons away from criminals should not affect you.

  32. "If you are a law abiding citizen, any attempts to keep those same weapons away from criminals should not affect you. "

    Except that you've advocated for both magazine restrictions and a new assault weapons ban - so your proposed restrictions would indeed impact law abiding citizens.


  33. "...but they didn't really want to have them."

    And that's why almost EVERY law enforcement wants a SWAT team and uses it even to arrest non-violent offenders. They LOVE the firepower.

  34. Yes,Cargo-- much like you gun rights activists who love their fire power.