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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

OPINION:

Authorities say Ewen Dewitt murdered 40-year-old Julie Minogue with an ax this month in her Milford, Connecticut, home. Two of her children were home when the murder occurred. Mr. Dewitt, an ex-boyfriend, had been stalking her.

“I’m scared he’s going to kill me,” she told the police. In 2019, she had a protective order issued. Just a week before she was killed, a judge had granted her a full no-contact restraining order.


The case clearly illustrates the limits of protective orders when the stalker is intent on murdering the victim. Suppose the murderer is already facing the possibility of life imprisonment without parole for first-degree murder. How will an additional five years in prison and a $5,000 fine deter such murders?

It is an important problem. Reportedly, 76% of women murdered by someone who had been an intimate partner were stalked.

Violence prevention advocates for women have a long list of changes they recommend. These changes require women to uproot their lives.

Among the advice: Women should change jobs, their travel routes, the time of day they leave home or work, move in with a friend or family member, change the locks on their home, or do their shopping and other chores with friends or relatives.

A few recommend that women practice martial arts such as judo, jujitsu, karate or boxing.

But the most obvious answer is missing from these lists: Women should get a concealed handgun permit and a firearm.

Men are typically much stronger than women, particularly in the upper body. Unfortunately, real life isn’t like the movies, where one woman can knock out and overpower several well-trained men. Even well-trained women often struggle to defend themselves against larger and stronger men. Men also tend to be faster runners.

A gun represents a much bigger change in a woman’s ability to defend herself. Men can readily hurt women without a gun, and if a woman is already in physical contact with the attacker so that he can take away their gun, they are already in trouble.

The peer-reviewed research by one of us shows that murder rates decline when people carry concealed handguns, whether they are a man or a woman. But a woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about three to four times more than a man doing the same.

And this message is getting across to women. Between 2012 and 2022, in states that provide data by sex, permits for concealed handguns increased 115% more quickly among women than among men. The percentage of women who say that gun ownership protects people from crime has also been growing faster than their male counterparts.

Connecticut and other states could make it much easier for stalked women to defend themselves. Even after taking the required training and applying for a permit, it “generally takes eight weeks to obtain” a permit. And that’s an optimistic estimate by the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. The Connecticut Citizens Defense League has had to file a lawsuit against three cities where the process regularly takes a year or more.

But even two months may be much too long for a threatened woman. Even women who have proved to a court that they are facing serious threats must wait to get a permit. One solution would be to allow women with court orders of protection to carry a concealed handgun while they are waiting for a permit to be issued.

Many single women with children may also find it difficult to pay $140 for a permit plus added fees for fingerprinting and training.

Connecticut’s concealed handgun permit cost is already almost three times higher than the average in other states. Despite this, 11.3% of adults in Connecticut have a concealed handgun permit — the 12th-highest state. And as crime in Connecticut has soared, the permit-possessing population has increased by 55,000 since 2019. Only 26% of permit holders in Connecticut are women, significantly less than in other states.

The high cost of permits disarms the very people who most need protection, including minorities who live in high-crime urban areas.

Police are important. Protective orders can help. But if we are going to be serious about protecting women like Julie Minogue, we have to let them protect themselves.

• Lott is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. Sullivan is president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.


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