I have a problem. I have a FB friend who appears to be your classic “damsel in distress,” right here in River City. She’s filed for divorce, but has not yet moved out. Her soon-to-be-ex is an ex-con, psych patient who refuses to take his anti-psychotic meds. He has a history of violence, domestic and otherwise. And, according to my FB friend, he just bought a gun at a pawn shop, and is carrying it on his person, 24/7. What’s wrong with THAT picture? So I see this train a’comin’, and I’m trying to figure out how to help, without endangering myself or my family. I got a bad feelin’ about this, Sundance…

Let’s face it. Most “gun control” advocates base their feelings/perspectives/opinions on two factors:

  • Guns can introduce (more) violence into a given situation
  • People can and do behave badly, and behaving badly with a gun is exponentially more dangerous than with no guns in the mix

I get it. But the answer that most gun grabbers come up with is “if we banned guns altogether, people couldn’t use them to do bad things.” Um. Yeah. And if we banned sunlight, nobody’d ever get skin cancer. And the idea of banning guns and banning sunlight have roughly the same odds of success.

So let’s for the nonce table the whole “if only guns were banned” B.S. and look at some practical issues for this case. I’m not a lawyer (nor do I play one on TV), but I’ve always understood that a convicted felon could NOT legally own a gun. Ditto for someone who has a documented history of mental illness and is currently on anti-psychotic drugs. So how did soon-to-be-ex-husband get his mitts on a gat? Let’s examine the situation a wee bit closer…

A lot of our “first line of defense” with the instant check system relies on people telling the truth, when they fill out the forms required to buy a gun. And we all know that people always tell the truth when they fill out forms, right? RUH-rho, Reorge! You see, if a gun dealer/pawn broker/gun show vendor has a customer fill out the form, they can’t be held legally responsible for the lies someone might tell on that form. Now of course, if you lie and get caught, they can lock your Alice B. Tookas up for a long while and throw away the key. But this doesn’t seem to deter a lot of bad guys. (Can’t imagine why. Oh, wait…because they’re bad guys.)

The “second line of defense” is the Spidey-sense of anybody who sells a gun. Most gun dealers I know are honorable, careful, and cautious. This makes sense from an Ayn Rand, “rational self-interest” point of view, if nothing else, because having the ATF all over them like white on rice is NOT a pleasant experience. Better to err on the side of caution when selling a gun. I’ve known dealers to flag an application and delay a sale, just so they can play C.Y.A. and avoid the potential forensic proctological exam by the ATF, should the gun sale result in a crime.

But not all gun dealers are perfect. Some just don’t have their bad-guy radar in working order. Some throw caution to the wind in favor of a quick sale. And sometimes, Murphy’s Law kicks in. And lemme tell ya, that “Law of Unintended Consequences” can be a bee-yatch.

So back to our story. The Damsel in Distress du Jour has a problem. She’s still living at home. Her soon-to-be-ex has some violent tendencies, a criminal record, a history of mental health issues, and is off his anti-psychotic meds. And he was able to buy a gun from a pawn shop. NOW what?

Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I suggested she get to a women’s shelter NOW. Take her dogs and leave them with friends or family. Get out whilst the gettin’ is good. Figure out the rest AFTER she gets to safety.

Now it’s occurred to me (as I’m sure it has to the TTAG Armed Intelligentsia) that she has some options here. Let’s review them:

  1. Get to a safe place and review her options.
  2. Get a gun herself.
  3. Get a CHL and a gun.
  4. Call the authorities and have the guy arrested.
  5. Wait for a disaster to occur and hope for the best.

Let’s examine these options, one by one, shall we?

Option #1 is (in my book, anyway) the smart, first move. Get out. Get safe. Get to thinkin’ about what to do next. Makes sense. Staying put seems like she’d just be asking for trouble.

Option #2 isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it’s no panacea. If it’s coupled with getting to a safe place, that is. If getting a gun is your go-to strategy and you’ve never handled a gun before, that’s probably the worst idea on the list, other than #5. Why? Because if you don’t know what you’re doing with a gun, you really shouldn’t own or carry one.

Option #3 presumes you have time – time to get all the paperwork done, time to get trained, time to practice. It’s not a practical option for someone in harm’s way.

Option #4 – I like this one, especially if coupled with Option #1. Get the guy behind bars, even on a charge of violation of parole, and she’d have some breathing room. (And it never hurts your position in a divorce case to have your spouse in jail for that sort of thing, if you know what I mean.)

Option #5 seems to be the go-to solution for most battered wives. I have no idea why. Stockholm Syndrome? Inertia? I don’t get it. But I’ve spoken to more than one woman who prefer being in the frying pan to getting the Hell out of the kitchen.

So that takes us back to me, standing on the right-of-way, watching the train, hurtling down the track, knowing full well that an accident is about to occur. Let’s be realistic here – all the gun control in the world is not gonna stop some violent spouse from doing bodily harm to a weaker partner if they are so inclined. (I speak from experience. My former business parter killed his wife by strangulation. No gun needed.)

The “system” the gun grabbers decry is largely ineffective. But it’s also the system we have to work with. So I’ll put it to you, the faithful members of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia: what would you do to help? Anything I’m missing? Have I overlooked something obvious?

32 Responses to How DO you stop a disaster before it happens?

  1. A combination of options 1 & 4 are best, I’d think, and of course get a restraining order. I know it’s only a piece of paper, but it’s one more thing he can potentially do time for and it certainly doesn’t do her any harm to get it.

    Of course the most emotionally satisfying resolution would be for her to tool up and take him out if he gets violent, but we all know the world doesn’t work that way.

  2. Wouldn’t the OODA loop apply here? For her and you….

    Her – She has already identified a potentially dangerous situation. She needs to leave and therefore remove that immediate threat. Once she’s found a new non-disclosed location, reassess and decide if she should add some defensive tools to her kit. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    You – Have already identified a potentially dangerous situation; the felon carrying a gun with a history of violence and going through a divorce. Decide and Act on the info you have to protect your friend; call LEO. Reassess based on the outcome of that issue. If you don’t call, and something happens to her, you’re going to feel like crap. You’re already part of the situation. If nothing else, you have now vetted this topic on the interwebs. This could have legal bearing on the issue if a proper discovery was done. Don’t let the fact that you’ve not given her name imply otherwise.

    • This whole thing is a mess. I have a friend who’s former assistant chief of police that I’ve contacted on this. But I’m dealing with what is essentially hearsay, from someone I don’t really know. And I have no way of assessing the veracity of the situation. I’ve been told the guy got the gun via the “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine”/(good) old boy network. I’ve seen that happen too often to discount it. But I don’t know any of the players personally, so I’m kind of flyin’ blind here.

      I can also tell you (again from personal experience) it’s not the trouble you expect, it’s the trouble that comes out of left field that get’s you. This whole thing could be nothing – or it could be tomorrow’s sensational headline. (Which is why, by the way, that the law is so ineffective at stopping these kinds of things. There’s no way to stop a crime in advance without trampling on everybody’s rights.)

  3. Am I missing something here? He lied on a gun application and is carrying a weapon.

    What was he convicted of? Apparently I need to do some real quick studying on the background check process. Each time I purchased a handgun I had to wait for the background check to clear the “system”, whatever that means. I assumed it was doing an instant criminal background check on me to make sure I didn’t lie on that little piece of paper I just filled out.

    In fact, the clerk at the gun store rang up my purchase before the background check was complete. Why? He told be because at the point I paid for the gun I would have already commited a crime if the background check came back that I lied. He’d had a case where the police were in the parking lot waiting for a less than honest customer who had just purchased a gun after lying on the background check. But I digress.

    So, is it not a slam dunk just to call the po po and advise that party X who is a con is in possession of said firearm?

  4. call 911 NOW. he is an ex con with a gun. It would help to know where he is and tell them . Do not wait for others to act. If she will go, get her out of there immediately.

    by the way what does FB stand for?

    • How does an ex-con lose his rights to bear arms? In most states, unless it is a violent felony, which is not mentioned at all in the article, their right to bear arms is not restricted. They paid their debt to society and had their rights restored. What are you going to call the cops for? The article never mentions he is on probation or parole…

      BTW FB stands for FaceBook.

      • In the state where I live being convicted of domestic family violence in any capacity will prevent a person from ever legally obtaining a firearm.

      • that is incorrect. any felony or even misdemeanor domestic violence conviction results in a lifetime ban on possessing firearms or ammunition. that is a federal law. no exceptions anywhere anytime. even a decades old tax conviction will do it if it were classified as a felony. some states have duplicate stat laws with additional violations included.

  5. I know that in this case it’s too late to help but it bears repeating anyway.

    Ladies, you will only ever be able to change a man in the most superficial ways. You may be able to make him dress better, or pick up his dirty socks, or put the toilet seat down. You may be able to make him take an interest in things he wasn’t interested in before. But that’s about it. If he’s a violent psycho when you meet him I promise you that he will remain a violent psycho no matter how much you love him or how long you stand by him. Such men should not be given a second date, much less your hand in marriage.

    There are plenty of nice men out here who won’t beat you. It’s worth the extra time it may take you to find one.

  6. Heah Brad, this is a FB friend. What do you really know about her? Is she giving accurate information? To answer my own question, probably not. My guess is that Mr. nutcase felon did not procure this gun legally. He probably got it on the sly from his favorite “pawnbroker” aka fence. No background check needed. Had he purchased the gun through a reputable dealer who required paperwork our potential perp in question would have popped positive for jail time and maybe for the mental health treatment. The gun wouldn’t have been sold. So here is my worthless advice. Call the cops on him. They will find a firearm that never went through the system. Off to jail he goes. As a bonus he will probably cut a deal and get the fence picked up.

  7. Step 0: Get a Restraining Order. Yes, they are about as useful as the paper they’re printed on, but it’ll help later if she can show she pursued every applicable, legal, non-violent means possible to protect herself first before going to other measures.
    Step 1.5: Get Training. Take an NRA Refuse to Be A Victim Class. Take some basic self-defense classes. Get in shape in case she needs to run. Have other options rather than point’n’shoot.
    Step 3.5: Get Training. Learn to access, draw and shoot in a stressful situation. A gun is not a talisman of protection, it is only as useful as the person wielding it.

  8. I do NOT belittle the possible seriousness of this case.

    Without knowing anybody involved, the other thing to consider before getting involved is that lots of people, when they go through divorce, lie. Thanks to BG checks, an ex-felon would have a hard time getting a gun through normal channels, including a pawn shop. Possible, sure. But, it is more than just “lying on the form”.

    Separately, thanks to lautenberg, any perpetrator of domestic abuse (misdemeanor or felony) is generally restricted from owning a firearm — so this is fixable with a single phone call if everything is as presented.

    So is this a woman in serious risk? Perhaps, but, one with a lot of opportunities for recourse; help her get them if she needs them!

    Or, is this a person disparaging their soon to be “ex” in a public forum to improve divorce proceedings and/or to alienate his friends? Does “ex-con, psych patient off his antipsychotics” mean misdemeanor DUI and a history of mild depression in college during which he took prozac?

    Ive seen this scenario go both ways lots and lots of times. Take it seriously, but, don’t let public facebook updates be your sole source of information.

    • +1

      My (anecdotal) experience is that some women absolutely LOVE to be in the submissive role and will run at top speed back to any abuser that will have them. And then complain to anyone who’ll listen about how terrible it is. They love drama, they love conflict, they’ll lie about anything for attention.

      Not saying that’s the case here, but be careful. Absolutely do not suggest to her a gun, and absolutely do not insert yourself (armed or not) into the situation. Let professionals handle it. Option 1, followed by option 4 as appropriate.

  9. This is bad and could get so much worse. One and four seem like the way to go, like, now.

    IMO, options two and three should be dismissed out of hand. Guns are not for everyone. Training or no training, someone who hasn’t already opted into choices one and four will not have what it takes to shoot someone in self defense at point blank range.

  10. If the guy is on parole in a lot of places the PO can search the guys house for a gun with the level of suspicion of an anonymous phone call.

    You or she could also call the ATF. It’s a federal law he’s breaking. If she has personal knowledge that he has a gun and the ATF can confirm that he’s a prohibited person that should be sufficient to get a warrant.

  11. “So back to our story. The Damsel in Distress du Jour has a problem. She’s still living at home. Her soon-to-be-ex has some violent tendencies, a criminal record, a history of mental health issues, and is off his anti-psychotic meds. And he was able to buy a gun from a pawn shop. NOW what?”

    Basic problem: The Damsel in Distress has GOT to take personal responsibility for her own safety – “still living at home”???? Is she insane, or a total idiot, or is she giving in to the “poor helpless me, there’s nothing I can do, oh me…” inertia? She has GOT to get the frick out of Fargo – call the battered womens’ help line, go to a shelter, but get MOVING. You can’t force her to save herself – it’s like an being alcoholic, SHE has to admit she has a problem and take action. Your list of steps to take are fine, but none of it will work unless she is willing to take personal responsibility for her own safety. Does she have any family members you know who might be able to jolt her into moving out?

    I simply don’t understand how someone can live with this kind of violence staring them in the face and not be willing to do whatever is needed to save themselves. No matter how well-intentioned you are, you cannot live her life for her. What are you going to do – go to her house, hit her with a Taser and drag her off to safety? She will just go back unless she makes the decision herself. Sad but true.

  12. I would be cautious. You are only hearing her side of the story and if she is truly afraid of this guy why is she still living with him?

    Of course, that’s assuming that there’s any merit at all to the story and it’s not some kind of scam (“I don’t have the money to move out on my own, hint hint”,) an elaborate prank, a hoax or a gross exaggeration of the actual facts.

    You’re divorced, right Brad? So tell me – do parties to a domestic dispute sometimes exaggerate, overly dramatize, or outright lie about things that have happened in order to make the other party look bad? I think you know the answer to that.

    In terms of credibility “I heard this from an anonymous facebook friend” is about equal to “I heard this from the microchip that the CIA secretly impanted into my brain.”

    Bottom line, move cautiously. VERY cautiously. And trust your intuition/Spidey Sense. If it feels like a setup/scam, it probably is.

  13. Start with Option #1. Do not pass “Go”, do not collect your belongings, grab the dogs and get them to friends/family.

    Then go to Option #4 and call the cops on him. Once he’s safely behind bars, then go collect your belongings and bug the HELL out. Tell no one where you’re going. Cross state lines if you have to.

    Why yes, I do believe in over-kill. Safety is Job #1. As well as Job #2, 3, and 4.

  14. Depends on how well you know the situation. Is it possible that the story you know doesn’t mesh with reality? What parts might have been exaggerated for sympathy or drama? Is he actually an ex-con, psych patient who refuses to take his anti-psychotic meds? Or does it happen to be the case that she’d rather be dating somebody exciting, like an ex-con psych patient, and her facebook posts are fantasy?

    Nothing like being an average guy, trying to keep a failed marriage together or at least get some of the equity out of the house, and have the police arrest you at work because somebody heard third hand that you were a nut with a gun.

  15. There are a lot of old sayings about getting involved in other people’s trouble.

    If you don’t know this person, it sounds like your desire to “do the right thing” may be clouding your judgment. Register your concern (as a concerned citizen) with the appropriate authorities who specialize in handling domestic situations, then stay out of it. It may sound cruel, but as has been said here numerous times, priority one is to your family and THEN to your friends. Strangers, not so much. Once the dangerous ex-con hears that you are involved, you may hear a knock on your door at 9pm one of these nights.

  16. I have a FB friend who appears to be your classic “damsel in distress,” right here in River City.

    This tells you pretty much all you need to know. Even if she avoids trouble this time around, here’s guessing her next bf turns out to be abusive, violent, and a little crazy too.

    Option 6: Seek therapy and fix the kind of guys she’s attracted to (which is probably impossible)

  17. Also, if someone isn’t family, you should probably just mind your own business. If it’s a kid that’s in trouble I can see getting involved but you have to understand women will seek this type of man for attention, you interfere and get seriously hurt.

    This kind of stuff happens a lot (link below) and you can end up in the hospital protecting someone who isn’t grateful and doesn’t want protection. I’d try and help someone who is getting robbed or taken advantage of but I refuse to interfere in a relationship a women is voluntarily in unless she’s family.

    http://voxday.blogspot.com/2010/07/danger-of-white-knighting.html#links

  18. She needs to get away ASAP. If she is “obligated” or “enabling” staying in some Stockholm Syndrome, Jerry Springer episode,,…she needs family (the sane ones),….and get the “****” away from this dude.

    If she can’t see that,….there is more to the story….

  19. Frankly, I don’t know what to believe – or who to believe. I learned a long time ago, the best policy is to not get too bent outta shape over anything you hear, take your time, and let people either talk themselves into – or out of – trouble. I rarely take anything at face value. This could be exactly what it seems to be. Or it could be someone cynically setting up a defense for a preemptive strike. It could be the overactive mind of drama queen, or it could be a genuine, battered wife. I don’t know. (That’s the frustrating thing about Facebook. You get NO context clues to help figure out the truth.)

    I’ve contacted a buddy who’s a retired higher-up with the local PD. I’m staying out of it after this for a couple of reasons – I’m not a law enforcement professional, I’ve got a family to consider, and it violates my rule on “rational self-interest.” Not to be cold or cruel, but once I’ve done what I think is the right thing, it’s time to back off and leave it to the pros.

    But I’m struck by all of your comments, in that there are so many ways to look at this. I was born cynical, and became a skeptic (as a form 0f self-defense). I was raised to be a compassionate, helpful “Boy Scout”-type. So I can see and appreciate all sides of this, and almost every comment here makes some excellent points. (For a change, even MikeB’s and Magoo’s. Go figure.)

    What’s so interesting to me is that, reading your comments has been like reading a playback of the internal dialog in my head, as I attempted to sort out this thing, between fact and fiction. (Jury’s still out on that one.)

    So I’ll let you know if anything comes of this. But from where I sit, I still don’t have a clue as to what the truth is on this. Which, I think, should be a cautionary tale for all of us, when we read about any tale online. There’s always another side to it.

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