The face of Utah’s gun lobby was arrested for domestic abuse this week. His lawyer said in his defense, that he was just having fun with his big boy toy.
I considered a number of ways to tell you this story. The most obvious would have been a deconstruction of the man who claimed his fifteen minutes of fame as the Face of Utah’s Gun Lobby after the massacre at Sandy Hook. Clark Aposhian, whose car sports a bumper sticker that reads “I AM THE GUN LOBBY,” has the ear of his state legislators. Just two weeks ago, a candidate for GOP Party Chair went trolling for votes on his weekly Guns I’ve Loved radio show, and that’s State Senator Kurt Oda with him in the photo on the right, as Aposhian presents a gun to Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
After Sandy Hook, Aposhian advocated loosening Utah’s gun laws and arming teachers. His “Concealed Weapons Training” class drew 200 worried Utah educators last December when he offered to waive the $54 fee for teachers. Wayne LaPierre would have proudly called him “a good man with a gun.” Maybe he still does. I would be fascinated to know.
I could have told you this story in LaPierre terms too; a good man with a gun, is just a bad man with a gun hoping the wind doesn’t change. The Army psychiatrist who shot up Fort Hood was considered, a “good man with a gun” right up until the moment he pulled the trigger on his fellow soldiers. Chris Dorner, the ex-Navy Reserve officer and former cop who went on a killing spree in California last February, was once considered a very “good man with a gun.” The inescapable reality is men, and women too, are by nature fallible beings. Every person who safely owns a gun does so at the whim of fate.
I would suggest the operable word in Wayne LaPierre’s catch phrase is not “good” it’s “man” – maybe well-intentioned, but predictably fallible man. Every good man who owns a gun is one mental illness, one temper tantrum, one fender bender, one too many drinks, one job loss, one divorce, one cheating spouse, one mistaken identity, one robbery, one curious toddler, one angry teenager, one lapse of judgement, one forgetful moment, one mistake, or one tragic accident away from being a good man whose life (and usually someone else’s too) was ruined by a gun. Even Clark Aposhian, Chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council; the man who teaches gun safety classes, and advises legislators on gun policy, was subject to such an unforeseen event. This “good man with a gun” had his AR-15 assault rifle and a night scope stolen from his station wagon last March. He went to bed and forgot it was in his car. If that gun turns up in a way none of us want to think about, is Clark Aposhian still a “good man with a gun?”
But it isn’t really Clark Aposhian’s relationship with guns I want to talk about either. It is what his story reveals about how easily intimidation against a woman is shrugged off as insignificant, that has me crazy. I want to talk about yet another battle in the War on Women.
Clark Aposhian was arrested this week for domestic violence. He was also charged with trespassing and harassment,for allegedly driving his two-and-a-half-ton military style truck (shown at right on a happier occasion) onto his ex-wife’s lawn, air horn blaring for attention. The arrest report says Aposhian bellowed at his ex-wife that he would go wherever he wants. He would run over her cars. He would bury her new husband.
While the officers were taking her statement, Clark Aposhian returned for a second bite at the apple, and was arrested at the scene. He was armed, of course. The officers confiscated his gun. One down, and who knows how many more to follow, because if he is convicted, Aposhian will lose his entire arsenal, and be put on the no-buy gun list. I would imagine that is a fate worse than death for someone whose job, whose social life and whose self-esteem is so heavily dependent on firearms. (But it sure would be worthy of applause and a sigh of relief from the rest of us.)
But, as I told you, it wasn’t Clark Aposhian’s losing his temper that struck me as column-worthy. It was the way his ex-wife was treated in the aftermath of his attack – the same dismissive way millions of female victims are treated every day. The lawyer for Clark Aposhian, in defending his client, admitted Clark took his M-35 army surplus truck with “Zombie Apocalypse” painted on the side, and trashed his ex-wife’s lawn. But he then dismissed the incident as insignificant! He completely ignored the existence of a victim, as if she didn’t exist. He DEFENDED his client by flippantly describing the episode as Aposhian “just having fun in his big boy toy.”
How I hear the lawyer’s explanation of events is that he has every expectation when things cool down, Aposhian will say sorry and pay to have the lawn resodded. Then it will all go away. A manly man may occasionally lose control of himself and go after his ex-wife with a 2-ton truck, but that in no way indicates he might lose control and come after her with an assault rifle. Take the man’s guns away? That’s just crazy talk!
To my mind, when Aposhian’s lawyer went on the record admitting his client went off-roading on his ex’s lawn, he admitted Aposhian committed domestic abuse. Aposhian’s “fun” was an assault. It wasn’t fun for his ex-wife or her husband. If the ex-Mrs. Aposhian had taken her rocket launcher and ended his attack, I have no doubt Mr. LaPierre would be singing her praises.
Fortunately, even Utah, where so many powerful Mormon men believe women are made by God to be their personal support system, doesn’t have domestic violence laws where “having fun” is an affirmative defense. Aposhian desperately needs to settle this before it lands in front of a jury with women on it. It will be interesting to see if his political connections can pressure the prosecutor into a deal that will save his gun collection, or if the press can raise enough of a ruckus that the politicians stampede toward the exits.
This is my contribution to that effort.
Photos via Clark Aposhian’s Facebook page
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.