America often has a debate about who should and should not own guns, often after tragedies occur because unstable people kill innocents with firearms. The same has happened with 32-year-old Courtney Irby, who is in the middle of a divorce with her husband, Joseph Irby.
Courtney says that her estranged husband attempted to run her down with a car, and she went to the police in Lakeland, Florida in Polk Counry to turn her husband’s guns in, presumably because she believed him to be dangerous. When she showed up with the guns at the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, she was asked:
“So are you telling me that you committed an armed burglary?”
Courtney told the officer:
“Yes, I am, but he wasn’t going to turn them in, so I am doing it.”
The Polk County Jail still had custody of Joseph when his wife turned his guns in. Further, there was evidence that she had only actually taken up residence at his apartment one time, and therefore, the taking of the guns was considered theft. To that end, she was charged with grand theft of a firearm and burglary on the home of her incarcerated husband. Joseph filed the charges while he was still in jail.
According to HuffPost, Joseph was released the day after his domestic violence arrest, but Courtney spent 5 nights and six days behind bars before she was granted bond.
Speaking to HuffPost, Courtney’s lawyer, Lawrence Shearer, said his client’s actions didn’t amount to theft under Florida law.
“Theft is to deprive someone of the right or benefit of property,” he said. “She didn’t do either one of those. She was taking them to the police department for safekeeping.”
The issue of disarming domestic abusers has been a key priority for gun safety groups over the past five years. In Florida, like many states, when a domestic abuser is ordered not to own firearms, there is no mechanism to ensure the perpetrator gives them up ― a loophole called the “relinquishment gap.”
The problem here is, though, is that this is a wife who knew her husband was incarcerated, and there were clear indications of domestic violence. Courtney was arrested for doing all she could do — after an injunction for protection was filed against her husband — to keep herself safe. Instead, doing so cost her her freedom. She is a victim, not a criminal. This sort of thing will only result in the fear of domestic violence victims coming forward. They will rightly assume they will be treated as criminals, while their abusers get slaps on the wrist, and the cycle continues on.
Featured image via Polk County Sheriff’s Office