In this column, A1F Daily trains its watchdog eye on The Trace, Michael Bloomberg’s new anti-“gun news” site.
On Aug. 17, The Trace responded to the brutal murder of Louisiana resident Monica Johnson, who was beaten to death with a baseball bat by her estranged husband a week earlier. Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley appeared on CBS affiliate WAFB to urge women to get concealed weapons permits: “Learn how to safely handle a weapon ... and when you’re in a situation like this, shoot him in your backyard before he gets in your house.”
Wade Duty, the owner of Precision Firearms in Baton Rouge, responded to Wiley’s plea by offering free concealed-carry training classes to women with restraining orders: “I thought to myself, ‘What can we do to help these people in this situation?’” Duty, an attorney and NRA instructor, told The Times Picayune.
Backed by years of experience in law enforcement and firearms training, experts like Sheriff Wiley and business owner Duty would seem to be on solid ground.
But for The Trace, this is Louisiana swampland. Financed by anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the website can’t admit that firearms are useful in any situation. This puts them in the unenviable position of arguing that a woman isn’t capable of defending herself with a gun from an intimate partner hell-bent on her destruction—a position that manages to insult not just victims of domestic violence, but all women. This puts [The Trace] in the unenviable position of arguing that a woman isn’t capable of defending herself with a gun from an intimate partner hell-bent on her destruction—a position that manages to insult not just victims of domestic violence, but all women.
The Trace’s Jennifer Mascia (who must have drawn the short straw at the editorial meeting) took on the seemingly impossible task of convincing women they should not shoot an enraged partner who is about to bludgeon them. Under the headline, “Advocates Warn of New Dangers as Sheriff Urges Domestic Violence Victims to Arm Themselves,” she writes, “Here’s the story the data tells.” Mascia then masks a lack of “data” with a mass of links, which she apparently hopes you won’t click. For example:
Mascia quotes Beth Meeks, head of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who claims, “There’s evidence that typically trying to defend yourself with a firearm is not successful.” In truth, the Centers for Disease Control in 2013 reported “almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year.”
Mascia links to an interview wherein Meeks claims that, even if they do defend themselves, women will likely be jailed for doing so: “Ninety percent of women who are in prison are there for killing their intimate partner.”
Really? Nine of 10 imprisoned women aren’t there for drugs, DUIs, robbery or property crimes (the top reasons cited in Justice Department records)? If true, that would be astonishing. However, Meeks is merely mangling facts found in a Feb. 24, 1992, Boston Globe article by Allison Bass: “As many as 90 percent of the women in jail today for killing men had been battered by those men.” That’s a far cry from proving the system unfairly punishes women who defend themselves against male abusers.
Mascia spends a lot of pixels on the story of Christy Martin, a well-known pro boxer who was once on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Mascia writes that Martin “armed herself against her husband during a violent 2010 altercation at their home in Florida. Martin’s husband, also a concealed carrier, grabbed Martin’s pink Glock and shot her with it.”
Mascia carefully leads us to believe that Martin armed herself “during” the altercation, but her husband “grabbed” it from her. But the link to a Jan. 2011 New York Timesfeature actually tells us that when Martin returned home after a four-day absence, her husband viciously attacked her in the bedroom, stabbing her in the chest, back and legs. He then left the bedroom, returned with her handgun and shot her at point-blank range. Martin never had control of the gun, and her husband certainly never “grabbed” it.
Useless stats are included to enhance the veneer of credibility, such as “only 1.4 percent of domestic abuse victims used a long gun in self-defense,” and “only 3.1 percent had used a handgun.” Actually, victims of abuse are nearly always maniacally controlled by their abusers, with no access to firearms or the funds with which to buy them. Victims can’t protect themselves with guns they don’t have.
Mascia even links to an analysis that states abused women are more likely to be murdered with a firearm, which is relevant—but not the way Mascia intends. After all, if you’re being threatened with a gun, shouldn’t you have one to defend yourself?
Finally, Mascia’s lone advocate (Meeks) warns about the “Marissa Alexander Situation.” Since her conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in 2010, Alexander has become a cause célebre for those who believe she was unfairly sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot to save herself from an abuser. In truth, the Centers for Disease Control in 2013 reported “almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals …” But once again, Mascia hopes you won’t investigate further. If you do, you’ll find that during an argument with her husband, Alexander ran to her car in the garage and retrieved her handgun, went back into the house and fired her “warning shot” at him and his two minor children, then 13 and 10. The bullet narrowly missed his head and lodged in the ceiling of the next room. She later claimed she fired while “fleeing,” but she could not escape because the garage door was broken. However, it worked fine for the police when they tested it, and the court noted that she could have easily escaped through the front or back doors, neither of which was obstructed.
It didn’t help Alexander’s case when she violated a “no contact” order and attacked her husband again … five months after she shot at him and his children.
It is true that Alexander was granted a new trial in 2010, but only because the jurors were improperly instructed. Alexander turned down a three-year plea deal in the first trial, instead adopting a “Stand Your Ground” defense. But it took the jury only 12 minutes to return a unanimous guilty verdict. The second time, Alexander chose to accept the plea deal that stipulates she will serve two years’ house arrest in addition to “time served”—again, about three years.
Mascia’s headline on The Trace promised us “advocates,” but she only delivers the unsatisfying Meeks. Mascia warns of “New Dangers,” but only repeats the old, unsupportable tripe that introducing a gun will make things worse. And if she’s correct that battered women run a greater risk by defending themselves with a gun, couldn’t she find a better poster child than Marissa Alexander?
Isn’t it more likely that when The Trace tries to convince us that abused women should never resort to armed defense, this is the best they can do?
Domestic violence is a frustrating, intractable problem. Abused women are usually in thrall to their abusers, denied access to any resources. Once separated, they often return to their abusers, their will sapped. Arming all battered women is not the answer, but denying them the choice to arm themselves is a crime no less heinous than the abuse they suffer.
The truth is, The Trace places these women in even greater danger when it frightens them into shunning Samuel Colt’s great equalizing tool just when they need it most. After all, he made it for just such an emergency.