Oklahoma is one of many states that doesn’t have strict laws surrounding domestic abuse violations and firearm possession. According to law enforcement and FBI data, 28 people in Tulsa and a total of 147 in Oklahoma were fatally shot by their dating partner, spouse or former spouse between 2006 and 2014. This gun violence is disproportionate towards women, landing Oklahoma as one of the top ten states with the highest number of women killed by men for the last three years.
Guns seem like a clear problem in homes housing domestic abuse, and many states have implemented stricter laws that can strip dangerous households of their firearms. However, Oklahoma law states that a firearm can only be taken in domestic abuse cases ‘provided an arrest is made, if possible, at the same time.’
This means that guns, should that small window of opportunity be missed, will remain in violent households.
You’d think common sense would win out in most cases, but the case of the now deceased Ms. Dye proves otherwise. Living in Oklahoma, Ms. Dye filed for divorce in July of 2010 and obtained an emergency order of protection from her husband, Raymond Dye. She and her family knew that he owned guns, and asked local police that they be removed. The pleas were not answered. Weeks later, her truck was blocked in at a bank parking lot by her husband who shot her to death with a .357 revolver and killed himself with a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol.
In Washington, Stephanie Holten almost lost her life to lax surrender laws. Although she specifically informed the court that her former husband had threatened to put a gun in her mouth and kill her, the only actions that were taken were to prevent Mr. Holten from approaching her.
Twelve hours after being served the order, Mr. Holten trapped Stephanie and her children in her home with a semi automatic rifle bought months before. Luckily, she managed to contact police in time to stop her family’s murder, but the fact that this confrontation can be even be reached despite such clear warnings is baffling.
If common sense in legislation is ignored, some interest group can likely be blamed. Like so many other cases that have led to the loss of human life in recent years, the National Rifle Association seems a likely candidate. After a Washington Democrat pushed a bill requiring the surrender of firearms under temporary protective orders, the NRA claimed it granted “extraordinarily broad authority to strip firearms rights.” Despite the counterargument that a temporary protective order’s issue is the most dangerous time for potential victims and that the seizure may only be temporary, the bill was not passed.
On the other hand, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts seize firearms in all cases of domestic abuse. Several other states have variations of seizure, including Connecticut and Florida, who prohibit gun possession in cases of protective orders. All these changes have led to a nineteen percent reduction in intimate partner homicides. Compare this to Oklahoma, where half of the 16 women killed in 2013 by their current or ex-partner were fatally shot.
With defensive interest groups like the NRA, common sense legislation that would allow the confiscation of firearms during the ‘cooling off’ of a protective order can’t be passed. The NRA even stopped a moderate bill in Washington claiming that guns should be seized only when full protective orders are announced.
At this point, the issue has very little to do with citizens’ rights and more to do with a power hold on legislation. Well-meant bills are being turned away as useless ‘power grabs’ by anti-gun parties. If the NRA continues to blindly bark at any gun legislation laws, more people will be hurt in cases where a shooting could have been avoided.