Betting Our Lives on Pieces of Paper

Let’s face the unfortunate reality: Restraining orders are not printed on sheets of kevlar. They won’t stop a knife or a gun. You can’t use one as body armor, and legal paper isn’t even absorbent enough to make a really decent bandage. Restraining orders also don’t magically disarm the violent ex or unbalanced stalker.

And if restraining orders do nothing to protect the innocent would-be targets, they do even less to protect the innocent bystanders — her co-workers, the customers in her workplace, the guy behind her in the line at Starbucks when the angry, hate-filled, predatory monster comes calling. At least the woman who took out the restraining order knows that trouble is gunning for her, but the collateral victims don’t even have that edge.

There were two shooting recently in salons, one in Wisconsin and another in Florida. In both cases, the intended victims had obtained protective orders in the days or weeks preceding the shooting. In both cases, innocent victims died when the violent ex-spouses violated their restraining orders and opened fire. I strongly suspect that, in both cases, the customers and co-workers of these women were unaware of the danger that lurked, just out of sight.

Look, it’s no secret that domestic violence situations are horribly volatile. So much so that California, which is historically extremely hostile to the rights of armed citizens, has enshrined into its Penal Code the following affirmative defense to the charge of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit:

25600. (a) A violation of Section 25400 is justifiable when a person who possesses a firearm reasonably believes that person is in grave danger because of circumstances forming the basis of a current restraining order issued by a court against another person who has been found to pose a threat to the life or safety of the person who
possesses the firearm. [Some exceptions for mutual protective order situations deleted. -TC]
(b) Upon trial for violating Section 25400, the trier of fact shall determine whether the defendant was acting out of a reasonable belief that the defendant was in grave danger.

Read that again, because it’s really quite extraordinary. Despite the hostility California’s laws have toward gun owners – and I’ll do a post about what the reality of “may issue” CCW permits looks like, one of these days – California grants an affirmative defense to unlawful carrying of a concealed weapon (a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail) to those who have obtained restraining orders.

Even if you aren’t involved with a situation that’s this volatile, there’s no guarantee that the person next to you in the sandwich shop, or the woman down the street who stops to chat when she’s walking her dogs, or the stylist who cuts your hair isn’t in the sights of a violent predator. You can often avoid danger that comes about from your choices, but it’s much harder to avoid becoming collateral damage to someone else’s violent conflicts. That’s why, if you live in a place where you can legally carry a concealed weapon, I believe your default position should be to always carry unless you’re going someplace where it’s illegal or impossible to carry.

Trouble might not find you there, but it might find the person standing next to you. And that’s just as dangerous.

Comments

  1. I have always said that restraining orders aren’t worth the toilet paper they’re written on. All they are is part of a legal trail so that when you’re killed, the lawyers and cops have something to point to.

    I *hate* that they are portrayed as something magical.

    • Unfortunately this is too often the reality. Worse, restraining orders can provoke an escalation of violence, especially with stalkers.

      And I’m with you – I hate how society sees protective orders as somehow magical. If he’s willing to kidnap, rape, traumatize or kill you, he won’t care that he’s violating a court order to do it.

  2. “I believe your default position should be to always carry unless you’re going someplace where it’s illegal or impossible to carry.”

    This is a LARGE part of the problem, however. All of those places where it is “illegal” to carry are better known as disarmed victim zones. The criminals who wish to kill people KNOW that there is little or no chance anyone there will be armed or offer them any meaningful resistance. That’s exactly why so many murders and other aggressive crimes occur in such places.

    There is simply no rational reason to prevent people from carrying their personal firearms anywhere, any time. The risk of attack is never zero, no matter where you are, and there is simply no way on earth to sift out the “good guys” from the bad ones well enough to prevent it. Responsibility for safety has to rest with the individual, not trust in some bureaucratic process and their hired guns.

    Restraining orders, background checks, restrictions based on previous health issues or anything else is pretty much useless because they don’t actually prevent crime at all. They can’t… The best they can do is provide evidence after the fact.

    • Yup, I know. I live in a county where, for all intents and purposes, the only people who can carry are law enforcement, CCW holders visiting from other counties, and bad guys. There are a few exceptions (FFLs can usually get a permit, for example), but it is essentially impossible here at present for law-abiding citizens to legally carry. This situation clearly does not make me safer. My county’s sheriff, who is the issuing authority for permits here, says “our county isn’t dangerous enough that people need to carry guns” despite the fact that we’ve had a record number of officer-involved shootings and despite the fact violent crime is on the rise. It’s very depressing.

      “Restraining orders, background checks, restrictions based on previous health issues or anything else is pretty much useless because they don’t actually prevent crime at all.” Indeed, and yet, every time we hear of a violent crime like those recent shootings, people come out of the woodwork to tell us that more restrictive gun laws will solve the problem. How someone who’s willing to commit armed assault, rape, murder, etc. would possibly be deterred by the fact that he has to obtain his gun illegally is beyond me.

  3. “How someone who’s willing to commit armed assault, rape, murder, etc. would possibly be deterred by the fact that he has to obtain his gun illegally is beyond me.”

    And of course they are not. Therefore, it seems obvious that the actual purpose for all this nonsense has nothing to do with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, or those with criminal intent, and EVERYTHING to do with disarming everyone who might have the slightest inclination to be independent and think for themselves. The more things the state can call “illegal,” the more power they have over all of us.

    The whole purpose of “law enforcement” is to protect and ever enlarge the power of the state… and has nothing at all to do with protecting anyone else… all protests notwithstanding. And that is quite obvious when you compare the size and intrusive, coercive nature of the state now with what it was even 50 years ago.

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