Five people were murdered in Annapolis, Maryland on Thursday. Our nation is shocked again. Our political leaders offer prayers and call this a tragedy, as though it could not be prevented—and as though it were a surprise.
Those of us who work in the domestic violence field feel the terrible familiarity of the story. A stalker, harassing a woman whom he barely knew—a woman who did not want to know him any better. A stalker heaping unwarranted blame on journalists who reported on his abusive harassment. There were many red flags.
The Capital Gazette’s former editor and publisher, Thomas Marquardt, wasn’t surprised to learn who the shooter was, because the shooter had increasingly harassed and made online threats to the staff of the Capital Gazette for many years. ‘“I remember telling our attorneys, 'This is a guy who is going to come in and shoot us.”’
The story in the Capital Gazette that so inflamed the shooter had addressed the shooter’s online stalking of a high school acquaintance. The shooter threatened the woman and caused her to lose her job because of his actions, taking her through a “yearlong nightmare.” The shooter pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment in that case.
This is where the background check system should have stopped the shooter from buying firearms. This is where the law should have protected the community. But it didn’t, because there is a “stalker loophole” in federal law.
Under federal laws that govern the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a domestic abuser who is subject to a protection order or who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is prohibited from buying, possessing or transferring any firearms or ammunition. But in the Annapolis shooting, which was directed at strangers, this prohibition did not apply. Despite his long history of violent, threatening, harassing behavior, the shooter was able to legally possess—and thus use—firearms. The difference? He stalked acquaintances and strangers. Those of us who work in the domestic violence field know how dangerous stalkers are and quite frequently, if they are unable to get to their primary victim, others become targets.
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
We must tell Congress to close the “stalker loophole” now.
Please contact your Senators and Representative and let them know:
Close the “stalker loophole” now!