‘It’s open season on women’: Domestic violence survivor warns against gun laws ahead of SCOTUS


Laura Morris has a very personal reason to be upset about a court case supreme court Tuesday Regarding the ability of domestic abusers to possess a weapon: A hole in her shoulder

That bullet wound is where her husband shot her three decades ago, when the federal law barring felons from possessing firearms didn’t exist. Now, Ms Morris fights to protect other victims of domestic abuse from meeting her fate – or worse.

the case, United States v. Rahimihinges on a man named Zaki Rahimi and the constitutionality of a federal law that prohibits a person subject to a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a firearm.

Rahimi was forced to give up his firearm in 2019 after his then-girlfriend obtained a two-year restraining order against him. The court concluded that Rahimi had “committed acts of domestic violence” against his girlfriend and that such violence was “likely to occur again in the future.”

The court’s decision was prophetic. Even after being banned from possessing a gun, Rahimi was involved in five shootings from December 2020 to January 2021. None of them involved his ex-girlfriend. Authorities charged him in April 2021 under a restrictive federal gun law, meaning he had to surrender any firearms and he has been fighting them ever since, arguing they violate his Second Amendment rights.

Now SCOTUS will hear the case, which by nature will determine how important restraining orders will be in protecting people if the requirement to give up firearms no longer exists.

“I actually thought I was dead”

Laura Morris wonders how a protective order could have changed her life.

Mrs. Morris and her husband had just begun raising their young son in an Illinois town in 1981 when their community was turned upside down: two of her neighbors were shot to death by their husbands.

One woman even obtained a restraining order against her husband. After reporting her husband to police, he shot her in the back as she tried to run across their front yard toward responding police cars. The bullet killed her.

Given these shootings, Ms. Morris, 24, certainly wasn’t happy when her husband bought a gun for $25 at a bar. She recalled that at the time, he was already “a bit rough” and would scream when he drank too much. But shortly after purchasing the gun, things quickly escalated.

She said Mrs. Morris’s husband began punching, slapping, choking her and pushing her to the ground. Fearing that she would leave him, he insisted that she spend her time only with him, which she described as a way of exercising “power” over her.

Eventually, things got so bad that even when Ms. Morris tried to leave her home for daily activities — whether to go to the store, work, or to visit a friend — he threatened to shoot her. He would grab his gun, point it at her, then say he would shoot her in the back of the head if she went anywhere. “So I didn’t want to leave him,” she said.

Despite constant threats, Mrs. Morris never obtained a restraining order against her husband. She expressed her fear that bringing charges against him or taking any formal measures against him would only increase his anger. Moreover, in her neighbour’s case she saw firsthand that the restraining order did not save her from her tragic fate. “There is nothing that can protect me,” she told herself.

She also held out hope that her husband would not shoot her, unlike her neighbors’ husbands. But then he did. One night, he pulled out his .22-caliber revolver, pushed her onto the couch and pointed the firearm at her stomach.

“Gut wounds are the worst,” Morris recalled her husband saying. “So he didn’t just want to kill me, he wanted to make sure I suffered,” she said.

Although the exact moment she was shot remains unclear, Ms Morris recalls not feeling any pain, “so I thought I was dead.”

She remembered lying on the floor of her house, injured, and her mind was racing. “Who will raise my son?” I thought. “Please don’t let my ancestors find my body.”

Mrs. Morris suddenly became more alert, and was awakened by the smell of gunpowder and smoke coming from the new hole in her shoulder. .

He put the barrel in my mouth, pointed it at my heart, ended at the back of my head and stood right in my face and said, “I can’t waste this time.”

Surprisingly, she said that the injury itself did not hurt her. Her husband shot her at such close range that the hot bullet cauterized the wound.

“Actually, I still can’t feel much where the wound is,” she said. “I was very happy because it was something of such a low caliber.”

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Mrs. Morris made a deal with her husband: she would not go to the police or the hospital in exchange for his gun. He agreed to that. She took the weapon that wounded her in the woods behind her house, dug a hole and buried it. But this was not the end of her nightmare.

Shortly after, her husband pulled out a gun that his parents had given him earlier.

He then began terrorizing Mrs. Morris with that weapon instead. “He put the barrel in my mouth, pointed it at my heart, ended up at the back of my head and stood right in my face and said, ‘I can’t miss this time,'” Ms. Morris recalled.

She lived in crushing daily fear. “Every day it was like this, Will this be it? Will this be the day he finally does it??’” she wondered. At some point, deeply concerned about how this dynamic would affect her son, she decided to leave her husband.

I would rather die than live like this every day,“I figured.

Six months after her husband shot her, Mrs. Morris filed for divorce. As part of the divorce arrangements, her husband agreed to return his gun to his parents. The federal law now being debated before SCOTUS will not be passed for another 13 years.

Impact on protection orders

It is important to note how many protective orders exist. In New York State alone, 335,000 protection orders It was filed in 2019 — the year Texas’ compassionate letter was issued. If the law is repealed, the number of domestic violence survivors potentially affected across the country will be in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

Furthermore, the current law arguably strengthens protection orders. Ms. Morris, now a senior fellow at the Everytown Survivor Network, said fewer people would be inclined to seek a protective order if the Supreme Court ruled that the federal law violated the Second Amendment.

If there had been some kind of law at that point, she would be alive right now

“You are arming people who have orders of protection against them,” Ms. Morris said. “So the court or the judge has already decided that she is dangerous. The only thing that keeps the women safe is taking the guns away from them.” [abusers]”.

Michaela Deming, policy director for the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said protective orders should not be abandoned, calling them a “critical tool.”

However, she acknowledged that if SCOTUS rules the law unconstitutional, it would mean more guns in people’s hands, with the judge saying, “I find that you pose a specific danger to this other human being, and perhaps many other human beings.”

Noting the somewhat fragile aspect of a protective order without existing law backing it, Ms. Morris added: “When has a piece of paper been able to stop a bullet?”

She thought back to her former neighbor and wondered what difference the federal law would make to her. “If there had been some kind of law at that point, she would be alive now,” Ms Morris said. “She would have been close to my age. She would have watched her children grow. She would have had a good life. But she died in her front yard of terror.”

‘A matter of life and death’

The law before the Supreme Court is federal, but legal experts say the unconstitutional provision could lead to challenges to state laws.

The nationwide implications of the case will only be known if the court overturns the federal law, said Janet Carter, director of cases and appeals at Everytown Law. However, she anticipates gun lobby challenges to similar state laws.

According to each city research, 32 states have prohibited those subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms. according to 2018 studyState laws requiring surrender of firearms by domestic violence offenders with restraining orders are associated with a 12 percent reduction in intimate partner homicides.

Legal experts said The Independent If fewer barriers were placed between domestic abusers and weapons, it might become more difficult for survivors to leave. “It is truly a matter of life and death,” Carter said, considering the law “essential to public safety.”

Ms. Deming of the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence agreed. “These are very real terrifying situations that people are experiencing as they try to survive, and they are also losing their lives to it and disrupting generations,” Ms Deming said.

If the Supreme Court rules that removing guns from those with protective orders is unconstitutional, allowing abusers to possess weapons will likely perpetuate abuses.

At the very least, it will not make it easier for those who have been abused to leave.

Ms Morris says she hates being asked why she didn’t leave sooner, because everyone has “a million reasons” why they won’t – or can’t leave. For some, it is a lack of resources, for others it is a child, and for others it is still a fear. She said that this fear is only exacerbated by the presence of weapons.

The question of whether Rahimi, the man at the center of the case before SCOTUS, is allowed to carry his guns, is no longer really an issue. He wrote a handwritten letter in July in which he pledged to “stay away from all firearms, and never stay away from my family again.”

But if the court sides with Rahimi, “it would be open season on women at that point,” Ms. Morris said.

“You will take the weapons away from them when you arrest them for murder,” she said. “Why don’t you take it from them before they do it and save a life?”

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