HOOVER, Ala. – Late one night in February 2019, a 31-year-old woman in a troubled marriage was rushed to an emergency room in a Birmingham, Alabama, suburb, with a gunshot wound in her upper right arm.
“He shot me,” Megan Montgomery told doctors, according to an investigative report obtained exclusively by NBC News. By “he,” she meant her husband, a local police officer named Jason McIntosh.
Police took her husband’s pistol away. Nine months later, the state’s top law enforcement agency gave it back, despite pending domestic violence charges and an active protective order. Just 16 days after that, he used the gun to shoot and kill her during another late-night dispute.
Montgomery’s loved ones were shattered by the loss of a devoted daughter and sister, a marketing professional with a passion for animal rescue. They were stunned to be told recently by NBC News that the state had given her abuser back the weapon he used to kill her.
“So the restraining order can prohibit him from ‘contacting, phoning, texting, harassing, stalking,’ but oh by the way, you can have a gun? That’s ridiculous,” said Megan’s mother, Susann Montgomery-Clark.
Even the shooter’s lawyer was shocked he got his weapon back. “In my opinion it was irrational, illogical and not prudent to do so,” said attorney Tommy Spina, who emphasized he was not excusing his client’s actions. Spina said that without the firearm, “I don’t think what happened that night would have happened that night.”
Women whose domestic abusers have access to a firearm are five times as likely to be shot and killed, according to research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.
These murders are also on the rise. After a triple-decade decline in cases where women were killed by guns wielded by their intimate partners, the number of deaths has been increasing since 2013, according to an analysis of FBI data by criminologist James Alan Fox at Northeastern University.
In 2019, the most recent year the data is available, 964 women were shot and killed by their domestic partners compared to 211 men and women who died that year from mass shootings. That’s one woman killed by an intimate partner every nine hours.
While federal law and many state statutes prohibit domestic abusers from possessing a firearm when a domestic violence protective order is in place, few states actually take the guns away or keep them away from abusers once a protective order is issued. Alabama has such a law, but domestic abusers often end up keeping their weapons.
Experts say the reason is a combination of deference to gun rights on the part of judges and other officials, the absence of a defined procedure to remove the guns and a lack of awareness by law enforcement about just how lethal the risk can be.
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