Back to Commentary Home  


Crime prevention begins at home
2 April 2006 - Orange County Register

Monica Rhor’s weekend series on restraining orders highlighted problems in the process, but left out a couple of very critical issues.

Readers should be aware that law enforcement officials are under no legal or Constitutional obligation to endanger themselves to protect the lives of citizens. There are CA appeals court decisions (Hartzler v. City of San Jose, 1979), D.C. appeals court decisions (Warren v. District of Columbia, 1981), and U.S. Supreme Court decisions (DeShaney v. Winnebago County, 1989) that affirm this. A 1990 U.S. appeals court decision (Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept.) interpreted DeShaney as ruling that even an existing restraining order did not create the "special relationship" between law enforcement and an individual citizen that would actually oblige police officers to protect that citizen. In every police department there are those who put their lives on the line to do just that, and those officers are rightly praised as heroes. But the public should be aware that as an institution, law enforcement is under no legal requirement to protect them - even if a restraining order has been issued.

Where does that leave an average citizen in fear for her safety, once she realizes that the police will not be held liable for failing to serve an order, enforce it, or protect her from its object? Who is then responsible for her safety? The only answer is that each individual citizen is responsible for his or her own safety - and each person should take every precaution they deem necessary to exercise their natural, God-given right to defend their own lives and those of their families. In more and more cases people are finding that the best and most effective step is to own a firearm and learn how to use it properly and safely - a recommendation conspicuously lacking in Ms. Rhor’s series.

Unfortunately California’s highly-regulated environment includes some of the toughest firearm restrictions in the nation, and these restrictions make it very hard for a law-abiding citizen to defend himself. One of the criticisms of the restraining order process is that sometimes the system doesn’t work fast enough to issue, serve, and enforce a restraining order. Consider the law requiring a waiting period before a law-abiding citizen can take home a newly-purchased handgun: who does it affect more, the criminal who likely obtains his guns from illegal sources, the aggressive abuser who can bide his time premeditating his actions, or the restraining order complainant who is in daily fear for her life? Why would we keep a person in such a state from being able to protect herself in a timely fashion?

Consider also the restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons (which California severely restricts with a "may-issue" law, leaving the issuance or denial of such permits at the discretion of each county or city, whereas 36 other states have more open "shall-issue" laws): who does this affect more, the criminal who likely has an illegally-owned gun already, the aggressive abuser planning a murder-suicide, or the restraining order complainant who must leave the protection of her lawfully-owned firearm at home? True, an applicant with a restraining order on file is probably likely to be issued the concealed-carry permit, but where does that leave the rest of the citizenry? Are those people with restraining orders entitled to more freedom of self-defense than those without?

California should reconsider its restrictive firearms laws, especially given the academic studies that are continually showing that a law-abiding, armed populace is more able to prevent crime than are police departments. The lives saved would go above and beyond those saved with a restraining order.

HTML & original content © 2004 - 2006 Jason Trippet