I do not like domestic abusers. Not one little bit. I have evolved well past gender bias about whom I disdain. I do not like male abusers nor do I much care for female ones. I have been glad that for many years U.S. Federal law already restricts access to guns for these people. In case you are one of the 50 percent of Americans that's never filled out the actual form to try to purchase a gun, here is U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) Form 4473. I extract from the questions in Part 11, where it details legal disqualifiers to purchasing or receiving a firearm,
h. Are you subject to a court order restraining you from harassing, stalking or threatening your child or an intimate partner or child of such partner?
i. Have you ever been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?
Form 4473 specifically admonishes that a person falling within the realm of items h. and i., among others, is not eligible to purchase or receive a firearm.
So just what are Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) doing? I tend to place little stock -- and view with jaundiced eyes -- legislative initiatives promoted by lobbyists. Too often, the actual purpose is not the betterment of the nation but to aggrandize a cause that helps the lobby grow in a self-serving fashion. So let's summarize these two bills floating in the Senate that prompted Mike Bloomberg and Shannon Watts to pay for airing what some people are now calling the best "go buy a gun" commercial this year. Maybe the NRA will nominate Mike for a Clio.
But I digress. Let's look at these two bills and ask the responsible citizenship question of whether or not these proposals serve a pressing national interest need.
Senator Blumenthal's bill makes no actual changes to any laws regarding restriction on domestic abusers. What it does is call for federal monetary incentives to pass to the states to pay them to enforce federal laws. Nothing in it says a state actually has to take the money. Legally a sovereign State has no obligation to enforce federal statutes if it chooses to not take the subsidy. This means the bill's author is proposing a form for federal bribe to the States.
Unfortunately, this bill strikes me as a bit of a stunt. It strikes me as somewhat symbolic at best and another source of pork money in an already large barrel of federal bacon more than anything else. His proposal seems to me something better handled in the normal Appropriations process as opposed to being yet another onerous mandated cost line item imposed on the U.S. budget and taxpayers. We have far too many of these already and this is not how U.S. budgeting is supposed to work. In my opinion, this bill should fail.
Senator Klobuchar's bill does attempt to change U.S. law. Hers wishes to create a new prohibited persons category called "non-intimate dating partners" who have been subjected to a restraining court order. This would change line item h. on BATFE Form 4473 to include what are basically "stranger stalkers". I'm still pondering what that might mean in terms the unintended consequences of what such a broad new category of prohibited persons might entail. What constitutes a person to be affected by this "stranger stalker" law? What is "non-intimate dating"? It's not formerly intimate partners because that's already covered by the law. If you've had sex at some point in a consensual relationship you've been intimate. Even I could figure that one out all by myself. If it wasn't consensual that's rape and there's a different line item on Form 4473 having to do with committing felonies that says no guns for you; to be complete, that is also existing law. So this is a bill in the U.S. Senate designed to penalize people who have dated casually, never slept together, and one of them decided to file court papers as part of un-friending the other. Or something like that.
I'm not saying this doesn't happen or that there aren't cases where is does not escalate to something serious. This is America and just about anything weird you can imagine can and does take place. But I find myself questioning to what degree this is a common a condition of domestic violence and if we need a law that creates consequences for court order assisted un-friending.
What I fear is that this type of legislation actually detracts and diverts resources from the real need to pay more attention to domestic violence that affects intimate relationships gone bad and violence against children by abusers. I'd rather keep the attention there and I must conclude that Senator Klobuchar's bill does not meet my litmus test.