Human Rights

Convicted Domestic Abuser Amassing an Arsenal? Let's Wait Until Something Happens Say Police

What if you had a boyfriend who was arrested and convicted for domestic violence against you?
What if you had a boyfriend who was arrested and convicted for domestic violence against you? And even though you split up and he moved to another state, you know he is amassing military style weapons because you have an eight-year-old daughter together who visits him in Arizona?
That is the situation of a Nevada woman who has repeatedly reached out to state and federal authorities about a possible mass shooter-in-the-making. "My former boyfriend, who was convicted for gun-related domestic violence, should be banned from owning a gun," said the woman in an interview. "Yet he has sent me pictures of his weapons and our daughter has seen them. His current girlfriend also says he's heavily armed."
The so-called Lautenberg amendment to the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 bans access to firearms by people convicted of crimes of domestic violence.
Earlier this year, the woman, whose identity is being withheld, wrote law enforcement and municipal authorities in Glendale, AZ, where the former boyfriend now resides, that he is likely in possession of strobe and laser enhanced assault weapons and tactical vests for reloading. Such weaponry is not necessary for "defending your home," the woman told a reporter and "It seems like he is preparing for something."
When contacted this week about the woman's concerns, Glendale police information officer Tracy Breeden said, "assault weapons are not illegal" and that the department could not be expected to track down all the "prohibited purchasers running around all over the place" because there is no federal data base. A conviction for gun-related domestic violence in a different state would have no bearing on the Arizona case, she added.
"There is no record of [the woman] ever making a report and/or notifying the Glendale Police Department about the information she provided you on weapons violations and the welfare of her children," Officer Breeden wrote in a follow-up email. However, in June, the woman received an email from Karen A. Reed, executive administrative assistant to Glendale Mayor Weiers which read, "The Police Department has responded back to me regarding your concern listed in your e-mail."
"If there is a violation or crime being committed," the email from the Glendale mayor's office continues, "it would be on a federal level and would need to be investigated and prosecuted by the US Marshal and US Attorney. There would be no legal justification for us, at the state level, to step in and take this person's property."
When the Henderson, NV police department, where the gun-related domestic violence incident allegedly occurred, was contacted this week, Kathleen Richards, Senior Public Information Specialist told a reporter that a former girlfriend's allegations were not "probable cause" to investigate the situation. The domestic arrest and conviction in question have been sealed, added Specialist Richards, and a "criminal search" would not bring the information up. But, significantly, even if the record was not sealed, it would have no effect on what happens in other states said Specialist Richards.
"Does this mean a domestic batterer can be convicted in one state and move to another and do the same thing?" commented the woman when told about Specialist Richards.. "In the wake of the massacres in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut we should be alarmed at anyone that not only has been convicted of domestic violence  but where a gun was involved in an emotionally unstable situation whether or not the person actually served a sentence."
Law enforcement officials and criminologists know there are clear warning signs before an Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Loughner and Seung-Hui Cho unleash a rampage. They are often isolated, angry and obsessed with weapons and violent video games-- characteristics which describe the Glendale man, says the former girlfriend. "I have seen him so angry, he will break things for eight hours. This is not about the safety of me or my daughter--it is about everyone's safety."
Yet when notified of a potentially volatile situation, local police departments will apparently still wait until violence occurs--as if the Virginia Tech, Aurora and Newtown shootings never happened.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of "Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health (Random House)."

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