By Jamila Johnson
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States decided McCullen v. Coakley, and the outcome was truly unfortunate for women seeking to exercise their right to choice. Unsurprisingly, there has been no shortage of coverage of this decision that struck down a Massachusetts law that barred protesting within 35 feet of abortion clinics.
“This ruling will create barriers to access for millions of women nationwide," said Lisa Stone, Legal Voice Executive Director. "State-based organizations will have to redouble their efforts to create new or revised buffer zones. We are fortune that here in Washington State our statute will not be changed or affected by this because it is based on the protesters’ behavior and not on geography."
The Supreme Court decision is a very disappointing ruling as buffer zones have been shown to reduce violence and threats of violence and increase women’s access to clinics.
While McCullen v. Coakley could put advocates for women’s rights in a downright foul mood, June was not 100% bad on the legal front.
Earlier this month, HB 1840—which was signed into law in April—took effect in Washington. HB 1840 was a bipartisan bill that, as Moms Demand Action explained, “will help save women’s lives and protect families by keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.” It added a provision to Washington law that prohibits any person restrained under certain protection orders, no-contact orders, or restraining orders from possessing a firearm, dangerous weapon, or concealed pistol license while the order is in place.
Could this law have an impact on mass shootings, as well? A 2013 article by Anna Minard of The Stranger sure suggests so.
“If we as a society have any interest in preventing mass shootings—crimes that seem so senseless, so unpredictable—we have got to look at domestic violence,” the article explained. The article cited an analysis of mass shootings, released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which explained that there was "a noteworthy connection between mass-shooting incidents and domestic or family violence." In fact, the majority of mass shootings—shootings in which four or more people were killed with a gun—between 2009 and 2013 were domestic-violence related. According to the analysis, in 32 of the 56 mass shootings (57% percent), the perpetrator "killed a current or former spouse or intimate partner or other family member.”
According to a press release from Senator Kline's office, “One quarter of domestic violence perpetrators who kill their spouses had been served with a protection order before doing so. Many of these murders are carried out with a fire arm.”
Legal Voice spent 10 years working with partners to get this bill into law, and it is worth celebrating.
Jamila Johnson is a litigator with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt and on the Legal Voice Board of Directors.