Opinion | Luke O’Neil

The NRA thinks your crazy ex-boyfriend should be able to get a gun

FILE- In this March 7, 2012 file photo, Illinois gun owners and supporters file out National Rifle Association applications while participating in an Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day convention before marching to the Illinois state Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Hearing aid maker Starkey Hearing Technologies is joining other companies that have cut ties with the National Rifle Association after the latest school massacre. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
Seth Perlman/AP/file 2012

THE NRA THINKS your crazy ex-boyfriend should be able to get a gun. Never mind any threatening messages he may have sent or how often he might have lost his temper. Never mind if he’s actually been convicted of stalking, the gun fetishist lobby is newly worried this month about protecting his right to more easily murder the people he’s been angered by, which is obviously just as the founders intended. And if we’re being honest that person is very likely to be you, his wife or girlfriend.

We know they think this because of, well, everything we know about the NRA and their servants in the Republican death cult, but we also know it because they’ve literally come out against a modest effort to perhaps decrease the number of women killed by stalker exes somewhat. As Congress is set to vote on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act — which was, amazingly, almost universally supported when it was first instituted in 1994 and has remained mostly uncontroversial since — the gun kissers are expressing concern that any incremental changes to what the law says about which domestic abusers can own guns is a slippery slope to tyranny. First you stop the violent exes from getting guns and next thing the King of England is quartering troops in our homes. Or something. In any case, as always, the solution to any problem they say is more guns.

Among the updates Democrats have suggested to the updated bill is closing what is known as the “boyfriend loophole,” which sounds like an excuse you might use when you’re drunk on vacation but is actually a lot scarier than that. Under current federal law a man convicted of abusing a spouse, a co-parent, or live-in partner can have his guns taken away. The updated law would expand that to dating partners or stalkers. Various states throughout the country have other stricter measures of their own on the matter, but it’s remained a glaring oversight on the federal level.


Jennifer Baker, an NRA spokesperson, has crowed that the new completely common sense update is “too broad and ripe for abuse”, saying it might ban people who merely send harassing messages on social media, or those who threaten people they dated five years ago as she put it. Threats on social media, as everyone knows, aren’t real right?

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“How it’s written right now, you could be convicted for a misdemeanor stalking offense for a tweet that causes someone emotional distress and then you would be prohibited from owning a firearm,” Baker said, lying.

Stalkers’ rights matter too in other words.

Feeling pressure to vote against what has traditionally been a bipartisan bill, Republicans reportedly asked the NRA to come out against it this time out to provide cover, lest they be seen as supporting something so politically heretical as siding with humans over guns.

Never mind that almost half of the 10,000 women murdered between 2003 and 2014 were killed by a current or former partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or that abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their domestic abuser if he owns a gun, or that domestic violence assaults are twelve times more likely to end in death if there is a gun involved according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Forget about the fact that of the 133 mass shootings between 2009-2015 examined by Every Town for Gun Safety, 57 percent involved an intimate partner or family member being shot. Furthermore, please pay no attention to the fact that in 2016, according to a study of FBI data by the Violence Policy Center, 1,809 women were murdered my men in single victim incidents. Of those where the relationship could be identified, 93 percent, or 1,537 out of 1,651, were men that they knew, and 63 percent were husbands or intimate acquaintances. What should any of that matter when we’re talking about the rights of a man to play big strong army man with his murder toy?


“The NRA opposes domestic violence and all violent crime, and spends millions of dollars teaching countless Americans how not to be a victim and how to safely use firearms for self-defense,” Baker said, which is in keeping with the group’s long held and debunked lie that having a gun in the home makes women safer. In fact, the opposite has been proven time and again, that women are less safe, not more, when keeping a gun in the home.

No matter what they tell you, it’s simply impossible to deny that fewer guns, especially in the hands of violent people, will lead to fewer deaths.

Scroll through the Twitter feed of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and it becomes easier to put faces to the statistics. Here’s Skylar Williams, an Ohio State student abducted and shot by her ex-boyfriend in February. She had previously told police he had abused her. Here’s Stacia Hollinshead, an Illinois prosecutor who sought a protection order against her ex-husband, who shot her last week with their five year old daughter in the home. There’s Jessica Velazquez, a Texas woman who was killed last month by her husband after trying to separate from him.

After a while it amounts to an overwhelming catalog of death and waste. You might start to get the feeling that the American culture of death is inevitable and that there’s nothing that can be done, but it’s not true. The NRA is flailing and admittedly having fundraising trouble. They were outspent for the first time in recent history by gun control groups in the midterms, and have experienced a series of legislative defeats, particularly as public opinion in the wake of increasing mass shootings has galvanized opponents.

There’s no reason why what small progress has been made of late needs to stop. As groups like Every Town and Moms Demand have shown, the NRA is right, we do have to start defending ourselves. It just doesn’t have to be with a gun.

Luke O’Neil is a journalist from Massachusetts who writes the newsletter “Welcome to Hell World.” Follow him on Twitter @lukeoneil47.