A new law (an amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968) bans anyone convicted of domestic violence offenses from carrying a gun. This includes police officers.
The nation's largest police organization has come out against the law. To their credit they've stated that they do not condone domestic violence, but just object to the retroactive application of the statute. What they're talking about is that the current interpretation of the law means that even officers who have had domestic violence convictions in their pasts must now hang up their guns.
I suppose for the police officers, this must seem like an unfair changing of the penalty after the crime. But, it is after all, only changing the penalty, not the crime. Retroactive application of the law does not make criminal what was not criminal when it occurred. What these guys did was illegal, and it was just as illegal before the ban as after it.
And, there are some sound reasons for applying this statute retroactively
The statute was intended to help protect the spouses of abusive people by removing at least one potential type of weapon from easy access. I don't know why the spouses of police officers should be left more vulnerable than anyone else, and that's what they'll be if we ignore the past convictions of law enforcement officers.
And, also the retroactive application of the law gets police officers who have been convicted of attacking their spouses or children off the street. The law has already caused some police departments to screen potential employees more carefully for prior domestic violence convictions.
This seems like a good idea to me.
Can you imagine being a woman who has been beaten to a bloody pulp by her husband and calling the police. In walks some man who has done the very same thing to his wife, or his children. You wouldn't expect to get a very fair deal from a guy like that, now would you?
In fact, one of the problems with the enforcement of domestic violence laws has always been getting police officers to take the laws seriously. I figure it's just as well to have police officers with an abusive past cooling their heels behind a desk or doing something else for a living rather than responding to domestic violence calls.
After all, we don't hire people with drug dealing records to fight the war on drugs now do we?.
And, we aren't just talking about spousal abuse. We're talking about the abuse of children as well. Do we really want men who have been abusing children - hitting them, slapping them, kicking and shoving them - to be walking around the streets with guns? I don't think so.
The people who lived next door to my parents rented their house out once when they went out of town. Shortly after the new family moved in, my mother stood in a window and watched the father hold the arm of a six year old and slap him repeatedly across the face. Finally, when she could stand it no longer, she stormed out the back door and pointed her finger at the man.
"If you touch that child one more time, I'll phone the police." She said to him.
He merely stared at her like she was crazy. "Lady," he finally responded. "I am the police."
And he was, a newly hired sheriff's deputy.
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't want that guy roaming around the streets carrying a gun and representing me. Of course, some people argue that the law will only make guys like this do their slapping inside the house instead of in the back yard, but I still think the law will make a powerful statement to police officers about how seriously society is beginning to take domestic violence.