Monday, July 18, 2005, FOXNews.com
By Wendy McElroy
|On June 27, in the case of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, the Supreme Court found that Jessica Gonzales did not have
a constitutional right to police protection even in the presence of a restraining order.|
By a vote of 7-to-2, the
Supreme Court ruled that Gonzales has no right to sue her local police department for failing to protect her and her children
from her estranged husband.
The post-mortem discussion on Gonzales has been fiery but it has missed an obvious
point. If the government won't protect you, then you have to take responsibility for your own self-defense and that of
your family. The court's ruling is a sad decision, but one that every victim and/or potential victim of violence must
note: calling the police is not enough. You must also be ready to defend yourself.
In 1999, Gonzales obtained a
restraining order against her estranged husband Simon, which limited his access to their children. On June 22, 1999, Simon
abducted their three daughters. Though the Castle Rock police department disputes some of the details of what happened next,
the two sides are in basic agreement: After her daughters' abduction, Gonzales repeatedly phoned the police for assistance.
Officers visited the home. Believing Simon to be non-violent and, arguably, in compliance with the limited access granted
by the restraining order, the police did nothing.
The next morning, Simon committed "suicide by cop."
He shot a gun repeatedly through a police station window and was killed by returned fire. The murdered bodies of Leslie, 7,
Katheryn, 9 and Rebecca, 10 were found in Simon's pickup truck.
In her lawsuit, Gonzales claimed the police violated
her 14th Amendment right to due process and sued them for $30 million. She won at the Appeals level.
the arguments that won and lost in the Supreme Court?
Winners: local officials fell back upon a rich history of
court decisions that found the police to have no constitutional obligation to protect individuals from private individuals.
In 1856, the U.S. Supreme Court (South v. Maryland) found that law enforcement officers had no affirmative duty to provide
such protection. In 1982 (Bowers v. DeVito), the Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit held, "...there is no Constitutional
right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen."
Later court decisions have
Losers: anti-domestic violence advocates and women's groups, such as the National Association of
Women Lawyers, failed to establish that restraining orders were constitutional entitlements. If they had succeeded, the enforcement
of such orders would have been guaranteed by due process. Failure to enforce them would have been grounds for a lawsuit against
the police, a precedent that local officials feared would flood them with expensive litigation.
of Rock v. Gonzales has been largely defined by these two opposing positions.
A third position cries out: Given
the court's position that the police are not obliged to protect us, responsible adults need the ability to defend themselves.
Thus, no law or policy should impede the access to gun ownership.
Responsible adults — both male and female
— have both a right and a need to defend themselves and their families, with lethal force if necessary. If domestic
violence advocates had focused on putting a gun in Jessica's hand and training her to use it, then the three Gonzales
children might still be alive. After all, Jessica knew where her husband was. Indeed, she informed the police repeatedly of
Of course, the Gonzales case — in and of itself — presents difficulties for the use of
armed force by private citizens. Would the same police who believed Simon Gonzales was not dangerous have believed Jessica
to be justified in picking up a gun to protect her children from him? Would the police have charged her for use of a weapon?
Regardless, these sticky debates would probably be taking place in the presence of three living children and not three dead
Nevertheless, most anti-domestic violence advocates strenuously avoid gun ownership as a possible solution
to domestic violence. Instead, they appeal for more police intervention even though the police have no obligation to provide
When groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) do focus on gun ownership, it is to make such
statements as, "Guns and domestic violence make a lethal combination, injuring and killing women every day."
In short, NOW addresses the issue of gun ownership and domestic violence only in order to demand a prohibition on
the ability of abusers — always defined as men — to own weapons.
That position may be defensible. But
it ignores half of the equation. It ignores the need of potential victims to defend themselves and their families. Anti-domestic
violence and women's groups create the impression that guns are always part of the problem and never part of the solution.
The current mainstream of feminism — from which most anti-domestic violence advocates proceed — is an
expression of left liberalism. It rejects private solutions based on individual rights in favor of laws aimed at achieving
social goals. A responsible individual holding a gun in self-defense does not fit their vision of society.
final analysis, such advocates do not trust the judgment of the women they claim to be defending. They do not believe that
Jessica Gonzales' three children would have been safer with a mother who was armed and educated in gun use.
clear message of Gonzales bears repeating because you will not hear it elsewhere. The police have no obligation to protect
individuals who, therefore, should defend themselves. The content of state laws does not matter; by Colorado State law, the
police are required to "use every reasonable means to enforce a protection order." The Supreme Court has ruled and
In the wake of Gonzales, every anti-domestic violence advocate should advise victims — male
or female — to learn self-defense. They should lobby for the repeal of any law or policy that hinders responsible gun
The true meaning of being anti-domestic violence means is to help victims out of their victimhood and
into a position of power.
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent
Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author of "Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century"
(Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.
1. ALWAYS ASSUME THE FIREARM IS LOADED.
2. ALWAYS POINT THE FIREARM IN
A SAFE DIRECTION.
3. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO FIRE.
4. ALWAYS KEEP THE FIREARM
UNLOADED UNTIL READY TO USE.
5. ALWAYS KNOW YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEYOND.
6. ALWAYS KNOW HOW TO OPERATE YOUR
7. ALWAYS KEEP THE FIREARM IN GOOD OPERATING ORDER.
8. ALWAYS USE THE RIGHT AMMUNITION FOR YOUR FIREARM.
9. NEVER USE ALCOHOL OR DRUGS WHEN CARRYING OR USING A FIREARM.
10. ALWAYS HIT WHERE YOU AIM.