During oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, the big news of the day was that Justice Clarence Thomas had asked a question to one of the presenting attorneys for the first time in 10 years.
The other focus of the news story was that he rose in defense of the Second Amendment.
What shouldn't be lost in the excitement over Thomas' rare questioning or the hot topic of the Second Amendment is that at the heart of the case being reviewed by the court is domestic violence and the propensity of more extreme violence that grows from it.
The case basically centers on a ruling that prohibits individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault cases from ever again possessing a gun. Constitutional rights are routinely withheld over felony convictions, but not the less serious misdemeanors.
Justice Thomas on Monday raised the question of whether taking the extreme step of prohibiting someone from exercising a constitutional right should apply to misdemeanors — in this case, misdemeanors resulting from domestic assault.
There's a strong argument that it should.
Domestic violence often starts out with shoving and hitting and escalates to more serious violence, including murder.
One of the factors in deterring fatal assaults is limiting access to weapons, especially guns.
According to the Violence Policy Center, guns were the weapons most commonly used by males to murder females in 2013. Nationwide, the center reports, 53 percent of female victims were shot and killed with a gun, and 69 percent of those were killed with handguns.
In the past 25 years, more murders related to domestic violence have been committed with guns than with all other weapons combined.
One could certainly argue that if a man wants to kill a woman, he doesn't have to use a gun. He can use a knife or his bare hands. But domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.
And sure, he could go out and get a gun illegally. But crimes of passion are often crimes of opportunity. So limiting access to even registered guns can prevent a fatal shooting.
Many initial domestic violence cases don't result in felony charges.
A New York Times report from 2013 revealed that New York City police make 70,000 precautionary visits each year to homes where domestic violence has occurred before, hoping to head off any escalation of violence that ultimately could lead to the victim being murdered. That's how seriously authorities take the threat of escalating violence.
So while the national media is flapping about Justice Thomas breaking his 10-year vow of silence, and while the rest of the Supreme Court is debating the Second Amendment rights of people charged with misdemeanors, we shouldn't be distracted from what this whole discussion is really about — the right of domestic violence victims to live.