On Friday, a 17-year-old gunman murdered ten of his classmates at Texas’s Santa Fe High School, the 22nd school shooting in 2018 that resulted in injury or death. The mother of one of the victims, Shana Fisher, believes that her daughter was targeted by the gunman after publicly standing up to him and rejecting his repeated advances only a week before.
While that is likely to never be confirmed by the gunman himself—who was taken into police custody—it fits the pattern of many recent terrorist attacks and school shootings in which the motive was to commit violence against women.
In February, 17 teachers and students were killed by a 19-year-old armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The gunman was reportedly stalking his ex-girlfriend—a current student—whom he was abusive towards.
One month later, a 17-year-old boy walked into a Maryland high school and shot 16-year-old Jaelyn Wiley who had reportedly just ended a relationship with him. She later died from her injuries.
In April, a man drove a van down a busy street in Toronto, murdering 10 people. He identifies as an incel, or “involuntary celibate,” a group of male supremacists who hold hatred towards women because of the men’s inability to engage in sexual relationships. The Toronto terrorist has an online record of celebrating other mass murderers who identified as incels, such as the misogynist who killed six people in 2014 at UC Santa Barbara. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently categorized male supremacy as a hateful ideology.
More than half of mass shootings have been committed by gunmen with a history of violence against women. “Research shows us that domestic violence is one of the biggest risk factors for future acts of violence,” said Adelyn Allchin, director of public health research at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “When young, angry men have easy access to firearms, lives are at risk.”
According to Loveisrespect, one in three people under 18 have experienced verbal, emotional, sexual or physical abuse from a dating partner. But only about one-third of young victims ever tell someone, and even when they do, many adults fail to take it seriously.
While the Lautenberg Amendment bars individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning firearms, there are many loopholes. Abusers can easily evade prohibitions by purchasing firearms at gun shows and forty-one states don’t require all convicted domestic abusers to relinquish guns they already own. Plus, many states have what is called the “boyfriend loophole,” which means that the gun prohibition only applies to a domestic abuser who lives with, is married to, or has children with the victim.
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. The chance of a woman in an abusive household being killed by her partner quintuples when a gun is in the home.
50 American women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month. American women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun then women in other countries.
Media Resources: CNN 5/18/18; Feminist Newswire 2/16/18, 6/2/17, 3/1/18; Teen Vogue 3/22/18, 5/21/18; Southern Poverty Law Center 4/24/18; Refinery 29 5/20/18