Media-backed "PolitiFact Ohio" tries, fails to disprove BFA Chairman Jim Irvine wrong on protection orders' impotence

by Chad D. Baus

Last month, State Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) introduced House Bill 160, a gun control bill that would force any person named in a domestic violence protection order to surrender their firearms to law enforcement within 24 hours.

We quickly pointed out the many flaws with Hagan's proposal, including the fact that, by statistics Hagan himself cited, 20% of women who are killed by an "intimate partner" had previously obtained a "protection" order against their eventual killer.

When asked to comment on the proposal, Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that HB 160 is a "failed idea."

"The idea that a protection order protects someone from another is a myth. It's like putting a 'no guns' sign on your building and thinking bad guys cannot get inside," Irvine was quoted as saying.

Less than 48 hours after the article was published, Irvine was contacted by PolitiFact Ohio, a self-described "fact checking" organization set up by the media to "to help you find the truth in politics." (I thought that was already the media's job, but apparently they needed to set up a special outfit to get at "the real truth.")

Irvine responded, providing a lengthy list of articles that supported his statement - articles which included quotes like these:

  • "With restraining orders, there's actually no hold on the defendant. They can be released within 24 hours of being arrested and go right back to the victim's home, and we do see that all the time." - Abbi Silver, domestic violence unit, Nevada District Attorney's office
  • "The reality is that a restraining order is a piece of paper. It's not going to stop bullets. If you get a restraining order without a safety plan in a domestic situation, I think that's almost asking for trouble." - John Poley, assistant city attorney, Denver's Domestic Violence Unit
  • "They don't seem to work in the short term. For example, in a study of domestic abuse victims in Washington state, protective orders did not reduce the recurrence of violence until four months after the initial attack. In the first few months, psychological abuse is actually more common among those who obtain legal protection than those who do not." - Brian Palmer, Slate.com

Irvine also provided articles which included examples like these:

I read with anguish the article describing Donna Kristofak's public pleas for help just two months before being murdered, allegedly by her ex-husband. In court last October, seeking protection from the man who earlier had tried to stab her in a Wal-Mart parking lot, Donna requested that the “record reflect” she feared for her life.

Cobb County Judge Adele Grubbs struck a sympathetic tone, responding that a protection order coupled with the threat of immediate incarceration for any violation thereof was the best protection the system could provide. Two months later, Donna was dead; her ex-husband, who had promised he’d kill her, stands accused of stabbing her to death in the garage of her East Cobb home.

Almost two weeks later, PolitiFact Ohio published the results of its analysis of Irvine's statement.

The result was exactly what one might expect from a media organization that found the truth, but preferred not to publish it.

From the article, entitled "Do protection orders really protect? The answer isn't clear":

The chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, Jim Irvine, said he backs Hagan's mission to quell domestic violence, but called HB 160 a "failed idea" that would not solve the problem.

"A gun is the tool the problem uses," Irvine said. "But there are knives, bats, clubs that are also tools. Are you going to take those away too?

"The idea that a protection order protects someone from another is a myth. It's like putting a 'no guns' sign on your building and thinking bad guys cannot get inside."

Is it a myth that protection orders work? PolitiFact Ohio was interested. We found several studies that suggest protection orders can be effective in deterring further violence, but we also found there are pitfalls in trying to prove whether they provide actual protection. So we're reporting our findings here, but not making a ruling on the Truth-O-Meter.

That's right - try as they might, they were unable to prove Irvine's statement false.

The idea that a protection order protects someone from another is a myth.

As Irvine explained to PolitiFact, "there is already a law in place that prohibits all of us from murdering any of the others of us," he answered. "If that does not work, it's crazy to think a judge's words or a piece of paper will work any better.

"Bottom line -- protection orders don't work. We know that. We need to try something different."

While she doesn't cite the PolitiFact Ohio article, a Gannett News Service reporter filed a story two days later that expanded on the fact that these pieces of paper are impotent and unable to protect anyone.

From the article, entitled "Protection orders see mixed results - Experts say they don't act as deterrent to victim's attacker":

In February 2012, a civil protection order didn’t stop Bo Cook from hiring Raymond Bertuzzi to kill Cook’s ex-girlfriend, Amy Aldrich, in Marion. In October 2011, a civil protection order didn’t stop Brian Scott Kolesar from fatally shooting his girlfriend, Julie Arnold, and her father, Charles Cheadle, in a car along Ohio 16 in Licking County.

A 2001 study published in the Criminal Justice Review said that as many as 1 in 5 women murdered by their intimate partners in 10 cities might have obtained protection orders against their eventual killers.

"It's a piece of paper. For the batterer who wants to do harm, it's not going to be effective," said Nancy Neylon, executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.

Addressing the proposed legislation, Mandy Sullivan-Dyke, director of the Ross County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, pointed out to Gannett News that judges already have the ability to bar gun use in protection orders, especially if one was used to injure or threaten the victim.

The article concludes with this:

Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearm Association, said taking firearms away from individuals who haven’t been charged with a crime and haven't had a chance to defend themselves against allegations will create only more problems. He also questioned why guns were singled out because knives, fists and vehicles can do just as much damage to domestic violence victims.

A better solution would be to teach victims how to use a firearm in defense or ask neighbors to stop by when the victim feels most vulnerable, Irvine said. The NRA hosts a "Refuse to be a Victim" course that outlines safety precautions available to victims without using guns.

"The reality is some people are dangerous, violent people, and this law is not going to stop them," Irvine said.

Anyone who truly wishes to help the potential victims of domestic violence should join us in making sure they know that carrying a gun for self-protection should be considered by anyone who feels the need to obtain a protective order. Educating potential victims will do more good than passing another "feel good" gun control bill.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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