Carol Bowne knew her best shot at defending herself from a violent ex was a gun, and not a piece of paper. And it was paperwork that left her unprotected when Michael Eitel showed up at her New Jersey home last week and stabbed her to death, say Second Amendment advocates, who charge local police routinely sit on firearms applications they are supposed to rule on within 30 days.
Bowne, 39, had a restraining order against Eitel when he killed her in her driveway last Wednesday, but she was still waiting for Berlin Township Police Chief Leonard Check to approve the gun permit she had applied for on April 21. Tragically, she had gone to the township police department just two days before her death to check on the status of her languishing application. In another indication of her fear of Eitel, Bowne had recently installed surveillance cameras around her home, and the equipment recorded the 45-year-old ex-con attacking her as she arrived home and got out of her car.
“Carol would have qualified for a permit since she was attacked; only now it’s too late.”
“She should have been granted that permit in a timely matter, especially given her status as a domestic violence victim,” said Evan Nappen, a New Jersey-based attorney who specializes in Second Amendment cases.
New Jersey's gun laws are among the nation's strictest, but law-abiding citizens are eligible to purchase and possess handguns after filling out forms available at their local police stations, submitting to a background check on any possible criminal history or mental health issues, giving fingerprints and paying a fee. Once those steps are taken, local police conduct a 14-point investigation and the chief is supposed to approve or deny for cause within 30 days.
Check did not return requests for comment, but gun rights advocates say it is not unusual for Garden State police chiefs to take several months to approve handgun permits for qualified applicants.
“The gun law’s intention is to be as difficult and cumbersome as possible,” Alexander Roubian, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, told FoxNews.com. “They need to be repealed.
“The system is so outdated," Roubian continued. "In most states, you go to the store, get a background check, and purchase a weapon. A police chief should have no part of the process. This woman had a legitimate issue and no one helped her.”
A manhunt for Eitel, who had done time on a kidnapping conviction and had repeatedly threatened Bowne, began shortly after the murder and ended Saturday, when he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot in another ex-girlfriend's garage.
Bowne's case prompted state senators Dawn Addiego, Diane Allen and Jennifer Beck to announce plans to introduce a bill that will fast-track the handgun permit process for applicants who have obtained a restraining order.
“The tragic murder of Carol Bowne shows that there are sensible changes we should make to public safety laws to help people protect themselves,” said Addiego, a Republican whose district is in southern New Jersey. “This legislation will make sure that those who need protection the most are given priority when it comes to the lengthy process of applying for a firearms permit.”
However, Nappen said even if Bowne had obtained her permit and used a gun to protect herself, she could theoretically be facing charges today because she would not have been allowed to legally carry the gun outside with her.
“New Jersey does not allow law-abiding citizens to get a carry license,” Nappen said.