Kate Ranta’s case is a sad reminder of how often gun violence is domestic abuse
In 2012, Florida resident Kate Ranta and her father were allegedly shot by her husband, retired Air Force Officer Thomas Maffei, in front of her son. Ranta survived and almost immediately became a symbol of the dangers of domestic abusers’ access to guns, and Ranta’s trial was slated to begin four years later on Monday. However, less than five hours after the trial had begun and almost immediately after opening statements were read, the county judge overseeing the trial declared it a mistrial due to alleged misconduct among jurors. According to Broward County Judge Raag Singhal, the trial is to “start all over again” on a date that has yet to be made public.
Ranta reportedly reacted to this news by bursting into tears and telling news outlets outside the courtroom: “I was fucked up for two weeks leading up to this and now I have to do it all over again?” Prior to the trial, Ranta on Facebook wrote: “I feel like my skin is crawling. Knowing I have to see him is making me panic.”
Ranta’s reaction highlights the real, lived toll of gun violence in abusive relationships, ultimately enabled by weak gun control measures pushed for by the NRA. On any given day in the U.S., an average of three women are killed by abusive partners or exes, and firearms are the most frequently used weapon. Some researchers estimate that a woman is fatally shot by a partner or ex every 16 hours.
Over the past four years since the shooting, Ranta has frequently faced questions about why she stayed with an abusive husband. After all, according to Ranta herself, there were dangerous signs early on in the relationship — namely his penchant for dishonesty and extreme jealousy, and later in their marriage, constantly brandishing his firearms in front of her despite her anxiety and policing all of her friendships.
But putting the blame on Ranta, as victim-blaming perspectives with regard to domestic abuse so often do, ultimately undermines the complexity of her economic and psychological situation. The real, concerning issue here is that in spite of a restraining order against Maffei following an encounter with police after Ranta alleged he had threatened to hit her, and all the other warning signs of his alleged abusiveness, he legally maintained possession of his firearms.
Robert Greenwald, director of the 2014 documentary on gun violence, domestic abuse, and the NRA, told the Huffington Post prior to the documentary’s release: “There are many who are not taking sufficient steps to take guns away from abusers, and some of that goes back to the legislators, to the morally and financially corrupt elected officials.” He added, “Women are getting killed and shot. Why should anybody who’s been an abuser ever have access to a gun?”
As Ranta’s case suggests, women and children (think of all those school shootings) are disproportionately targeted by gun violence, and while gun violence is obviously tragic regardless of the victims’ age or gender, it has to be noted that gun violence and domestic abuse both appear rooted in our culture’s toxic standards regarding masculinity. And those who suffer the consequences of this phenomenon tend to be women.
Solutions to gun violence as a result of domestic abuse other than more stringent gun control laws for everyone have been floated. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in May vetoed a bill that would have suspended the gun permits of alleged domestic abusers who are served with restraining orders and required them to turn in guns they already owned, instead suggesting it should simply be made easier for domestic abuse victims to access guns themselves.
Leaving aside all the evidence that suggests the “good guy with a gun” theory is bullshit and more guns pretty much always spell out more deaths, like Ranta, many other men and women alike rightfully fear guns or experience anxiety around firearms.
As a result of the lax gun control measures that enabled Maffei to allegedly shoot his wife, Ranta and her son continue to struggle with PTSD. “I thought I was about to have my moment and finally have some closure,” Ranta told the Huffington Post on Monday. She added: “When your only recourse is either the civil justice system or the criminal justice system, and it means you’ll be tied up for years, many people feel that they will never get justice. It reminds me of that old saying: Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Ranta and her family unfortunately face an uphill battle in their quest for justice four years after she and her father were shot. But on a positive note, her experiences have sparked a dialogue about the relationship between gun control and domestic violence. However, whether or not this dialogue will actually translate into legislators severing profitable ties with the NRA and finally getting shit done before something like this has to happen again is to be seen.