NYT's Michael Luo Confidently Asserts Gun Restrictions on Violent Men Would Have Saved Lives

Monday's lead New York Times story was a long investigation by Michael Luo into what the Times sees as an NRA-fueled failure to properly protect women from former spouses by allowing the men to keep guns: "Ruled a Threat to Family, But Allowed to Keep Guns – Weapons Advocates Oppose States' Efforts to Bolster Orders of Protection."

Luo's usual beat is campaign finance, where he has a hobby of trying to get the IRS interested in GOP fundraising tactics he doesn't approve of. On Monday Luo displayed a very trusting nature in government regulation, assuming that the men lawless enough to murder women would have been stopped by gun restrictions.

Another question: Why were these threatening men not in jail to begin with? For all his concern about gun violence, Luo doesn't suggest women take action by arming themselves for protection.

Early last year, after a series of frightening encounters with her former husband, Stephanie Holten went to court in Spokane, Wash., to obtain a temporary order for protection.

Her former husband, Corey Holten, threatened to put a gun in her mouth and pull the trigger, she wrote in her petition. He also said he would “put a cap” in her if her new boyfriend “gets near my kids.” In neat block letters she wrote, “ He owns guns, I am scared.”

The judge’s order prohibited Mr. Holten from going within two blocks of his former wife’s home and imposed a number of other restrictions. What it did not require him to do was surrender his guns.

About 12 hours after he was served with the order, Mr. Holten was lying in wait when his former wife returned home from a date with their two children in tow. Armed with a small semiautomatic rifle bought several months before, he stepped out of his car and thrust the muzzle into her chest. He directed her inside the house, yelling that he was going to kill her.

“I remember thinking, ‘Cops, I need the cops,’ ” she later wrote in a statement to the police. “He’s going to kill me in my own house. I’m going to die!”

Ms. Holten, however, managed to dial 911 on her cellphone and slip it under a blanket on the couch. The dispatcher heard Ms. Holten begging for her life and quickly directed officers to the scene. As they mounted the stairs with their guns drawn, Mr. Holten surrendered. They found Ms. Holten cowering, hysterical, on the floor.

Who is to blame? The National Rifle Association, of course.

For all its rage and terror, the episode might well have been prevented. Had Mr. Holten lived in one of a handful of states, the protection order would have forced him to relinquish his firearms. But that is not the case in Washington and most of the country, in large part because of the influence of the National Rifle Association and its allies.

Advocates for domestic violence victims have long called for stricter laws governing firearms and protective orders. Their argument is rooted in a grim statistic: when women die at the hand of an intimate partner, that hand is more often than not holding a gun.

In these most volatile of human dramas, they contend, the right to bear arms must give ground to the need to protect a woman’s life.

In statehouses across the country, though, the N.R.A. and other gun-rights groups have beaten back legislation mandating the surrender of firearms in domestic violence situations. They argue that gun ownership, as a fundamental constitutional right, should not be stripped away for anything less serious than a felony conviction -- and certainly not, as an N.R.A. lobbyist in Washington State put it to legislators, for the “mere issuance of court orders.”

The Times researched "scores of gun-related crimes committed by people subject to recently issued civil protection orders, including murder, attempted murder and kidnapping. In at least five instances over the last decade, women were shot to death less than a month after obtaining protection orders."

Luo eventually admitted these murders can't all be laid at the feet of the NRA.

In some instances, of course, laws mandating the surrender of firearms might have done nothing to prevent an attack. Sometimes the gun used was not the one cited in the petition. In other cases, no mention of guns was ever made. But in many cases, upon close scrutiny, stricter laws governing protective orders and firearms might very well have made a difference.

Luo relayed the tragic case of Oklahoma woman Barbara Diane Dye, then noted failures in Wisconsin and Virginia with an aggrieved sigh: "Even so, across the country, any suggestion of a broad shift must be tempered by history."

The lack of a state surrender law helps explain what happened when Deborah Wigg, a 39-year-old accountant in Virginia Beach, obtained a protective order in April 2011 against her husband, Robert Wigg, whom she was in the process of divorcing. In her petition, she described a violent encounter in which Mr. Wigg grabbed her by her hair, threw her down, ripped out a door and threw it at her. He was arrested and charged with assault. She also made clear in the petition that her husband owned a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun.

Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center . Read more: http://archive.newsbusters.org/bios/clay-waters.html#ixzz3CdgxLFgQ