By Jueseppi B.
American children return to school this week without any meaningful national change on gun policy even as cities like Chicago continue to reel from black-on-black violence and subsequent murder rates higher than those in Medieval Europe. And yet there is another form of violence that easy access to guns makes considerably more lethal not always spoken about in this debate: violence against women.
Here are some facts on domestic violence and guns:
- Guns increase the probability of death in incidents of domestic violence.
- Firearms were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1990 and 2005.
- Domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.
- Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.
- In nearly two thirds (64.5%) of the households that contained a firearm in one study, the intimate partner had used the firearm against the victim, usually threatening to shoot or kill the victim.
- Laws that prohibit the purchase of a firearm by a person subject to a domestic violence restraining order are associated with a reduction in the number of intimate partner homicides.
- Every day in the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
Mary Weingart was born on October 30, 1937, and died on February 22, 1981.
Eddie Weingart said that he “was two, not quite two and a half,” when his mother was shot and killed by his stepfather in front of him in front of their Desert Hot Springs, California home more than thirty years ago. She was 41.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. People say, how can a two-year-three-month-old have any memory? But I have a lot of vivid memory,” which he said he attributes to the trauma that he suffered.
Eddie explained that his mother had been separated from Bill Straub (Eddie’s stepfather) for at least six months, but that “he was not accepting the divorce. He would come over and make threats.” Eddie said that his mother was in a vulnerable spot when she met the ex-marine, as his father had recently admitted to her that he was gay about the same time that she became pregnant with Eddie.
“Nobody knows where she met him,” Eddie said of Bill Straub. “She was on the rebound. It was a whim of a marriage.”
The day that Mary Weingart was shot to death, she was alone with her two-year-old at their home in Desert Springs. It was a late Sunday afternoon in February. Then Bill Straub showed up unexpectedly.
“I was in the living room near the kitchen,” Eddie said, “and she had actually picked me up and took me outside,” as their fighting escalated. He said that she put him on the enclosed porch outside and went back inside her home.
“I remember her – very, very, very vaguely – trying to calm him down. And then I remember it starting up again, flaring.” It was quiet for a few minutes then, because Bill Straub had come outside.
“I remember him passing me. I remember him looking at me. I remember the glasses he was wearing, [which were] prescription glasses but rose tinted. And I remember him walking out the gate.
“He had a twelve-gauge shotgun in the back of his truck. This was like an old hunting shotgun. And he came back in and started another shouting match with my mother when she saw the gun. She ran down the steps around [our home], and as she was reaching for me he shot her in the back from six feet away.
“She fell about four to six feet away from me, and I do remember that, and I remember that clearly,” Eddie explained through tears, saying that years of therapy have got him where he is today, which is “healthy, but it will never become less emotional for me.”
He continued: “The thing that drove me so insane as a child was just the memory of her blood pooling up, and the smell of it. Still to this day, we’re talking 1981 and we’re in 2013, I can still smell that blood, that fresh, bright-red arterial blood,” blood, he said, that soaked into his diaper.
“And I remember just screaming and screaming and crawling over to her, and I stayed with her.”
Although no adult witnessed the actual shooting, horrified neighbors by that time were calling the police, who soon arrived. It was one of these neighbors who watched as Bill Straub, “stuck his gun in my mouth and attempted to fire it twice,” said Eddie. When the gun failed to shoot, “Someone said that he casually walked away from me, he opened the gate, he put the twelve-gauge shotgun in the back of his pickup truck, and he casually drove away.”
Bill Straub was charged with involuntary manslaughter as the shooting death of Eddie’s mother was called a crime of passion by the state of California (evoking sudden rage rather than premeditation, in spite of Straub’s bringing the shotgun with him to Eddie’s home). He was sentenced to a California state minimum security prison for four years, the maximum sentence, and due to good behavior, was released after two years.
“The sickest part of it was the divorce was not finalized, and so he had access to all of her money, and he hired a defense lawyer. And my Dad did not have money to hire prosecution but was also told by the D.A. you don’t have to worry about this, Mr. Weingart, we have got this.” (Bill Straub has since passed away.)
When he was nineteen years old, Eddie felt brave enough, he said, to read the autopsy report, “and it was horrific. For anybody who wants to debate how simple or not simple a gunshot of any magnitude is, whether we’re dealing with a handgun, or twelve-gauge shotgun, or an AR-15, it is ugly in its entirety, but in my mother’s case, with a twelve-gauge shotgun, which you can buy at Walmart, which you can open a checking account and get one for free, where you can pretty much buy and carry one anywhere easily, cheaply, and without much or any background check, [the bullet] went through her back, made an entrance of nine inches with the spray and literally emptied her chest out. She had a complete open chest cavity. Her breasts were gone. Her heart was in fragments. It was noted that there was zero life support that could have been given” to save her life, he said.
Eddie says that when she was murdered, his own suffering began as the result of not only her death, but also the way in which she was killed, and “the horrific fact of witnessing it.
“I have a childhood that no one should have to go through,” he added. Until he was four, any siren “would set me off into a panic that my Dad said would sometimes take me six hours to pull me out of.” (After his mother was murdered, Eddie was raised by his biological father, Rocky Weingart, who had remained good friends with Eddie’s mother, and his partner, Bob.)
“The moment my father brought me home [the night my mother was killed], the psychological implications from this traumatizing event started to manifest and only got worse.” The panic attacks eventually stopped after Eddie turned five, but the combativeness, the acting out in school, “just the pure rage I would get into” would continue for another twenty years. He was in “hard-core therapy” consistently from three years old until the time he was twenty-four. At one point, at eleven, he was so unmanageable that he had a stay in a psychiatric hospital.
Eddie said that he’s sure that there were many times when his father and Bob “lay awake in the middle of the night probably crying their eyes out, saying we love him, but how can we keep doing this?”
At around twenty-three, Eddie said he came to the conclusion, “I can’t do this alone anymore. Not letting people help me, not letting people in, not admitting I am rage filled; I came to a point that I was so exhausted, I finally just collapsed.” He credits both his Catholic faith and effective therapy to his ability to heal, or at least to be healthy and lead a fulfilling life.
Eddie was told by friends and relatives growing up that he had had “the best mother in the world.” She “had four baby books of me. She wrote me long letters, saying ‘you are my sunshine.’ She was passionate about motherhood, and people tell me, to this day, Boy oh boy, you were the crème of the crop.” But, he added, “The opportunity to know her was stolen from me long ago.”
Eddie is the Founder and Chair of Project End Gun Violence (PEGV) in Washington, D.C. He said that although PEGV was founded in the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary last December, he has been an activist on this issue for years. Still, it was after that massacre when Eddie said he knew he had to step his efforts toward gun law reform up, as he said, not only for the sake of the children who were killed but also for those who witnessed it and were nearly killed themselves and whose lives, he knew, would never be the same.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of gun violence and would like to share your story with Moms Demand Action, please email@example.com.
Moms Demand Action | September 4, 2013
How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown?
As time goes on, our count gets further and further away from the likely actual number of gun deaths in America—because roughly 60 percent of deaths by gun are due to suicides, which are very rarely reported. When discussing this issue, please note that our number is by design not accurate and represents only the number of gun deaths that the media can find out about contemporaneously. Part of the purpose of this interactive is to point out how difficult it is to get accurate real-time numbers on this issue.
Using the most recent CDC estimates for yearly deaths by guns in the United States, it is likely that as of today, 9/4/2013, roughly 23,281 people have died from guns in the United States since the Newtown shootings. Compare that number to the number of deaths reported in the news of gun violence in America which actually is 7,873.
Information can be found at Slate.
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