BuzzFeed reports that Lakeland, Florida resident Courtney Irby was arrested for attempting to turn in her estranged husband’s firearms to police after he was charged with domestic violence and attempting to run the 33-year-old over with his car. After bringing Joseph Irby’s guns to the police while he was in custody because she “was in fear for her life,” Ms. Irby was arrested, charged with two counts of grand theft of a firearm and one count of armed burglary, and spent five days in jail.
In the aftermath of the event, people are urging the Lakeland Police Department to drop charges against Ms. Irby. Florida state Representative Anna Eskamani also came to Ms. Irby’s defense and supported her decision.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and empowering our survivors to ask for help — not arrest them,” she said Tuesday on Twitter.
“My sister was hysterical,” said Irby’s sister Haley Burke. “She knew that this just poked the bear, and he would be coming after her.”
NPR reports that local police say that Ms. Irby committed armed burglary and court documents reveal that Mr. Irby is accusing his wife of aggression during divorce proceedings. He also accused her of taking a third firearm that didn’t make it into police hands.
“Prosecuting Ms. Irby sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it,” Eskamani said in a letter to Polk County State Attorney Brian Haas.
After being physically assaulted by her ex Courtney Irby took his guns & gave them to the police. They arrested her. He got 1 day in jail for assault, she got 6 for theft. A gun in a domestic violence situation = 5x more likely a woman will be murdered.https://t.co/bNUCXWfYY9
— Michael Shermer (@michaelshermer) June 25, 2019
But Eskamani added that court records reveal Mr. Irby applied for a temporary injunction against Joseph while the two were going through a divorce.
“When the officers contacted the husband, who was still in the Polk County Jail, he insisted they press charges.”
As of now, Haas has not made a decision. He told NPR that the department is waiting for “various reports, statements and other documentation” from the Lakeland Police Department. After this information is received, Haas claims that his office will review the information and determine if charges should be filed — a decision that will reportedly come within 21 days of Ms. Irby’s arrest on June 15.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brian Bruchey claims that law enforcement doesn’t have the right to take away a person’s weapons — even after an injunction is ordered. He suggests that they do not have the authority to confiscate firearms from people except for two cases: when there is a court order or they are surrendered.