Today marks National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and it is not possible to discuss the importance of reforming gun control laws in the United States without mentioning domestic violence and violence against women.
While pro-gun lawmakers are trying to exploit the rates of sexual assault and domestic violence as reasons for why Americans should have more ready access to firearms, not less, the fact is that women in the United States are significantly more likely to be shot by an attacker than to shoot their attacker.
A report from the Violence Policy Center that found that for every woman who was able to use a handgun in self-defense against an intimate partner, another 83 women were murdered with a handgun by an intimate partners.
Another report by Trace states that, “Every credible scientific study of women and guns in the last two decades strongly indicates that a firearm in a woman’s home is far more likely to be used against her or her family than to defend against an outside attacker.”
In one California study, of women whose abusers had access to a firearm, two-thirds of them had used the weapon to threaten or intimidate the victim. 4.5 million women in the United States report experiencing intimidation or coercion by an intimate partner using a gun.
25% of women in the United States will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, and the chance of a woman in an abusive household being killed by her partner quintuples when a gun is in the home. 46 women die each month at the hands of an intimate partner with a gun, a weapon that one in three American adults owns.
In 1996, Congress passed a law, often referred to as the Lautenberg Amendment, which bars individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning firearms, as domestic violence abusers have a high rate of recidivism and the violence is likely to escalate over time.
While most misdemeanor offenses do not result in a ban from possessing a firearm, the Feminist Majority Foundation vigorously lobbied for the passing of this law, as it is exceptionally difficult to convict an abuser of felony domestic violence unless the victim is physically assaulted to the point of near death.
However, federal law (and the law in most states) allows domestic abusers and stalkers to easily evade gun prohibitions by purchasing guns from unlicensed, private sellers. In addition, forty-one states do not require all prohibited domestic abusers to relinquish guns they already own.
While the gun lobby likes to promote firearms as a means of protection, more often it is a tool used to intimidate, harm and murder women. Domestic violence victims cannot be left out of the national debate surrounding gun violence.
Media Sources: Mother Jones 2/22/17; Salon 2/24/17; Huffington Post 9/20/16; The Trace 5/2/16;