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Why Did New Jersey Fear Carol Bowne?

Why Did New Jersey Fear Carol Bowne?

When 39-year-old Carol Bowne of Berlin Township, N.J., realized her ex-boyfriend was violent and likely to hurt her, she did several smart things. She added security cameras and an alarm system to her home.  She applied for a protective order to legally keep Michael Eitel away from her. And she decided to purchase a handgun for self-defense.

Unfortunately for Bowne, because of New Jersey’s overly restrictive laws on purchasing a firearm, her firearm permit application—submitted back in April—was still under consideration when Eitel, a convicted felon, brutally stabbed her to death in her driveway on June 10. Left defenseless by the very system she relied on to protect her, Bowne paid the ultimate price—and became the latest victim of the state’s draconian gun laws."He killed her like an animal, and I will never rest knowing that that’s the way my friend’s life was ended because she couldn’t protect herself."

The slaying has caused outrage throughout the country, as people realize Bowne was purposely left defenseless by anti-gun politicians. In most states, Bowne could have simply gone to a gun shop and purchased a firearm to protect herself. Then, she might have at least stood a chance against her bigger, stronger attacker.

While New Jersey’s restrictive permitting system is bad enough, the fact that the state government frequently drags its feet and won’t issue permits within a reasonable timeframe is even more frustrating.

“This shouldn’t have happened,” said Chuck Berwick, owner of Banger’s Sport Shop. “The permitting system is atrocious. In our statute, it’s written in black and white that a police department has 30 days to process the paperwork, and very, very seldom do we see a permit that’s actually issued in less than 30 days from the time it was applied for.

“The police chief being in the position that he’s in should know the law. Ignorance is absolutely no excuse.”

The fact that Bowne was left to fend for herself isn’t lost on many who cared about her.

“My friend didn’t have to die this way,” one of her co-workers at White Horse Pike salon told me the week after Bowne was murdered. “He killed her like an animal, and I will never rest knowing that that’s the way my friend’s life was ended because she couldn’t protect herself. And knowing that it could have been prevented makes it all that much more painful … and hard to digest.”  

Many of Bowne’s friends knew of her problems with her ex. They also knew she had gone to great lengths to try to keep herself safe. And they are furious that the state not only let her down, but also kept her from being able to protect herself.

“She went to the police, she filed numerous reports, every time there was an incident she logged it with the prosecutor, with the Berlin police,” said close friend and co-worker Colette Marino-Quinones. “He actually had a warrant out on him for an infraction against that restraining order. He walked around freely for that whole month. She was the prisoner. My friend might be standing right here today had they arrested him at least on that.”

Sandy Muldoon, NRA-certified pistol instructor, pointed out the fallacy of believing that the best defense is taking out a restraining order against someone bent on violence. Yet restrictive gun laws left that as Bowne’s only real solution.

“If somebody is going with an intention to kill somebody, are they worried about violating a restraining order?” Muldoon asked. “It’s not protection whatsoever. It’s just a piece of paper.”

The political ramifications of this murder are far-reaching. But for those who look at this as simply a matter of politics, Bowne’s friends, family, co-workers and even customers can tell you it’s far from simple. It’s a matter of real, law-abiding people paying the price for truly unfair and unconstitutional laws.The fact that Bowne couldn’t practice her Second Amendment-protected rights—and died because of it—should shame all New Jersey politicians who support the state’s anti-gun laws.

“The customer reaction has been overwhelming,” said Denise Lovallo, a fellow hairdresser at the salon.

“In the back, on her station, there’s flowers; it would have been her 40th birthday. [Reading a card] It says, ‘Carol’s sparkling eyes and beautiful smile will be missed by so many people.’ It’s more than an empty chair here.”

The Courier-Post newspaper reported shortly after Bowne’s murder that Jane Shivas, executive director for the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women and an Everytown for Gun Safety supporter, said: “We will never know whether Carol would be alive today if she had received her gun permit and purchased a gun.” Truer words were never spoken: We will never know, because the state’s laws allowed Bowne to be killed by not giving her any chance to even try to defend herself. 

A week after Bowne’s murder, three state senators announced plans to introduce a measure to fast-track gun permit applications for recipients of restraining orders. While the proposed fast-tracking of permits for those in fear is a positive move, it is too little, too late for Bowne. 

The fact that Bowne couldn’t practice her Second Amendment-protected rights—and died because of it—should shame all New Jersey politicians who support the state’s anti-gun laws.

“What do we have to do in this state? It’s really backward, and this poor woman lost her life because of it,” said Anthony Colandro, CEO of Gun For Hire Range. “So many people are concerned [that] as tragic as Carol’s death was, that she won’t be the last victim. They’re concerned that once the headlines disappear, so, too, will any chance for real change in New Jersey.”