To further their civilian disarmament agenda, our good friends at The Trace are on something of a tear, guns-in-the-hands-of-domestic-abusers-wise. As part of this extended riff, they’ve published an article from domestic abuse survivor Leslie Morgan Steiner (above). The Harvard grad’s tale is horrific, but her attempt to connect the dots between her abuse and gun ownership is entirely specious.
Conor first attacked me five days before our wedding. In the little ranch house we’d bought to start married life together, he choked me and banged my head against a wall. His fingers left ten red-brown bruises on my neck. They faded just in time for me to put on my mother’s wedding dress and marry him, despite what he’d done . . .
After that first assault, I assumed he’d never hurt me again, because I knew that he loved me. I also knew Conor’s secret: that he’d been repeatedly abused by his stepfather as a child. But I didn’t know anything about the longterm impact of childhood trauma, or how difficult it would be for him to keep his abusive past out of our marriage.
It sounds to me that Ms. Steiner is making excuses for … her own ignorance? Her lack of will to leave the abusive relationship? Surely not her husband’s behavior. There is no excuse for domestic abuse. An explanation, maybe. An excuse…no.
This bit strikes another discordant note:
That Glock was not there to keep me safe, though it did make Conor feel strong in ways he’d never felt as a child. As a young boy, his mother had stood by helplessly as his stepfather broke Conor’s arm, his ribs, his collarbone. His stepfather also beat his mother in front of Conor. What I couldn’t see as his wife was that Conor’s power came at my expense. If he kept me insecure and afraid, I couldn’t leave him, couldn’t abandon him the way his mother had.
Just because something’s true doesn’t mean it’s important. The fact that Ms. Steiner’s husband used a gun to bolster his fragile ego and terrorize her — including pressing one to her head — doesn’t mean that gun ownership enabled her abuse. He could have, indeed may have used a hammer, a knife, a golf club, or his fists (yet again) to accomplish that.
Once again, correlation does not equal causation — unless you’re an anti-gun rights advocate trying to convince people that gun ownership per se is an unacceptable danger. There are a hundreds of thousands of gun owners who were abused as a children (including this author) who do not abuse their partners with their fists, a gun or anything else.
Conor insisted I clean his guns and join the National Rifle Association; on weekends, he pressured me to accompany him to the gun range. Conor acted as if he were teaching me a shared hobby, like fly fishing. To me, having guns in my house, my car, and my life was like drinking poison in our tap water every day. I couldn’t see, or measure, the danger. But bit by bit, living with Conor’s guns destroyed the trust I had in the man I loved. And in myself.
Really? It was the guns that destroyed Ms. Steiner’s trust? I would have thought being choked and punched in the face would be enough to accomplish that.
Were there other examples of non-firearms-related abuse that Ms. Steiner neglects to add to her account of her married life? I suspect there were. But the article is designed to make the case that guns enabled her abuse.
I understand full well that people can find themselves trapped in potentially deadly relationships. There are myriad reasons for this, from economic dependency to psychological issues to sheer terror. I don’t “blame” Ms. Steiner for her ongoing trauma in any way.
But an abused person’s imprisonment doesn’t change the fact that they are the target of abuse. No target, no abuse. Which is why there are shelters for battered women and their children. Also note: physical abuse is a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Equally and more to the point, guns are nothing more than a tool. They can be used to save lives. They can be used to murder. And they can be used to terrorize. In and of themselves, guns are benign.
When I think of Conor today, I have to wonder, and worry: Where are those guns now?
Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of domestic abuse from possessing firearms. Brandishing a firearm is a crime, and offers a prima facie case of domestic abuse. So, was Connor convicted of abuse? Did he serve time? If not, why not? Does his new wife know his history of abuse? If not, why not?
There’s the real story. Not to put too fine a point on it, Connor wouldn’t need a gun to abuse his new wife. But millions of men and women use firearms to defend themselves, their children, their partners and other innocent life from abusers and predators every year.