When it comes to reducing gun violence, we are in this for the long haul. One of my senators said that.
Lori Jackson Gellatly separated from her husband, filed for a temporary restraining order, and moved in with her mother in Oxford. On May 7, a day before a court hearing to extend that order, her husband allegedly broke into the family’s house, and shot Jackson and her mother.
The Gellatlys’ toddler twins were asleep upstairs. Lori Jackson, 32, died of her wounds. Her mother, Merry, survived.
The gun, from all reports, was acquired legally.
Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy sought to attach to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 an amendment named for Lori Jackson. The amendment would have prevented people under temporary restraining orders – like Jackson’s estranged husband, who has since pled not guilty to a variety of charges– from purchasing or possessing a firearm. Federal law restricts the purchase or possession of firearms — by someone with a permanent restraining order.
The amendment made sense because:
• Women who have been abused are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.
• More than two-thirds of intimate partner homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms.
• In Connecticut, between 2000 and 2011, 175 homicides were linked to domestic violence. Of those, 153 victims were females.
• This isn’t just a Connecticut problem. That Texas shooter who killed an entire family in July? He, too, had a history of domestic violence.
The greatest threat to someone who’s fleeing domestic violence comes when the law is weakest. Attaching the amendment to the Sportsmen’s Act (my queendom for some gender-neutral language here) was an acknowledgement that no gun law – the act expanded the use of guns on federal property — should pass without some form of gun control. We have to do more to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys. We have to do more to cut down on the amount of guns used in intimate partner violence.
But this is Washington at its most dysfunctional. The act died, along with the amendment – which was not a huge surprise, even to Sen. Blumenthal.
“I was disappointed, but not dumbstruck,” Blumenthal said. More worrisome was the Senate’s shameful behavior in April 2013 when that august body could not agree on even the most basic of gun control measures. Today, Blumenthal and others will introduce the Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act of 2014, a proposal that aims to get guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
It’s easy to lose hope, but it’s better to lose patience, and let that fuel you in the battle, like the students at the Center for Youth Leadership in Fairfield County. Members there are continuing efforts to educate from the ground up on issues such as intimate partner violence. They’ve held signs on city streets, and dressed up in prom dresses urging students “I am your prom date. I am not your prom toy.” The students know that domestic violence starts with disrespect, and it starts early.
“We want to blow the cover – that’s how one student described it – on all these issues,” said Bob Kocienda, who runs the center. “We know they’re happening, so why aren’t we taking about it.”
Kocienda, like Blumenthal, takes the long view. Social change takes time. Rome wasn’t built – and old lessons unlearned – in a day. Last legislative session, some center students testified before the Connecticut legislators in favor of a bill – ultimately successful — that addressed sexual assaults on Connecticut’s college campuses. Just a few sentences into their presentation, a state senator asked why the students were in Hartford, as the bill addressed rape on college campuses, not in high school. The student answered quickly: “Where do you think this behavior starts,” and got back to his testimony.
We could all learn from that student.
“We have to recognize that this is a marathon and not a sprint,” said Blumenthal. “We are by no means going away.”