Gun Reform Can Save Numerous Lives Of Domestic Violence Sufferers

Gun Reform Can Save Numerous Lives Of Domestic Violence Sufferers

The United States is an unsafe place to reside if you’re a woman. That is a fact for a number of reasons, but chief among them is the rate at which femicide by firearm occurs. As compared to other high-income countries, women in the US are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun. 

It was said once by former US president Theodore Roosevelt that comparison is the thief of joy. It is appropriate to say in this instance, however, that comparison is not what is stealing our joy — guns are. It is guns that are stealing the lives of our citizens at an unsettling pace. It is guns that are breaking apart families and communities. It is guns that are making Americans wary of going out into public places where they would otherwise feel safe.

And it is guns that are the choice weapon of domestic abusers; with firearms, they are five times more likely to commit femicide. (If you are curious to know a bit more about femicide as a practice, see this article that I completed on the topic). And about 4.5 million women in the US report having been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner.

Gun violence has become the new (ab)normal in the United States. We have had more mass shootings than one can reasonably keep track of without resorting to Google to check. When you put guns and domestic violence perpetrators — both with the potential to be lethal— together, you can imagine that it will create situations that will not end well.

We could talk at length about how we got to this point as a nation, and there are valid pieces of information that the general public needs to know. For example, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have both been hamstrung by Congress for years with regards to what they can do with their government funding to research gun violence. You’d not be incorrect in assuming that the National Rifle Association (NRA) was — and is — behind that lobbying effort. This hinders those agencies from coming to conclusions about anything that could possibly point toward gun control recommendations being made. This is an immense loss for public health because those suggestions from the CDC and NIH could save many American lives. 

Ultimately, looking backward and trying to figure out the “How” is cold comfort at this point. We have lost too many innocent people. We’re losing 52 women every month to femicide by firearm, to be specific. This country is bleeding lives, and we will bleed more the longer that we wait to move forward and find solutions to this problem of rampant gun violence.

So, what can we do, then, to help ensure the safety of domestic violence victims?

There are countless suggestions that have been made, with many of them being wholly ineffective ideas. Take the talking point made by some that women in the throes of domestic violence should be armed so that they can defend themselves. Aside from the fact that this is a terrible idea, consider this statistic: States with the highest rates of firearm ownership (the top quartile of states) have a 65% higher rate of intimate partner violence firearm homicide than states with the lowest rates of gun ownership (i.e., the lowest quartile). And, women who bought a gun died by firearm homicide at twice the rate of women who didn’t buy one. Looks like arming domestic violence victims won’t work.

What can we do?

There are four suggestions that immediately come to mind that advocates for gun control have returned to time and again when answering this question. They’re solid ideas that I believe would work well if enacted:

1. Close the ‘boyfriend loophole’.

Under federal law, what the ‘boyfriend loophole’ allows to happen is for abusive partners that do not reside with the abused partner to keep their guns. Guns can only be removed from spouses; if the two individuals are not married, there either has to be a child involved or the two individuals have to have lived together at some point. As femicide by firearm happens often to unmarried victims, federal law needs to be amended to help those in this situation.

2. Close the ‘Charleston loophole’.

The ‘Charleston loophole’ states that when a citizen attempts to buy a gun from a licensed dealer, there has to be a background check completed — usually by the FBI, sometimes by the state — in 72 hours or the dealer will be forced to sell the gun to the citizen. The Charleston loophole is what allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof to purchase the weapon with which he murdered nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina. 

In terms of domestic violence, 30% of gun sale denials from 2006 to 2015 by licensed dealers to buyers convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse took longer than three business days. Think how many lives that this loophole is putting in danger just by existing. If it were remedied, that would have been about 18,000 domestic abusers that would not have been armed. 

3. Remove rules that allow domestic violence perpetrators from evading the background check requirements.

Domestic abusers, and anyone that wants to purchase a gun but doesn’t want to complete a background check, can simply go to either a private seller or to a gun show to purchase their firearms. Why are those places not held to higher standards? Why are they held to no standards whatsoever? A guy could, in theory, buy a gun at a gun show and go home to murder his wife. Surely, we’d rather save lives than give domestic violence perpetrators hassle-free firearms. 

For gun shows, either eliminate them entirely or set up the capability to start the background check process before gun purchasers are allowed to leave the venue.

4. Improve domestic violence records

Domestic violence records aren’t kept up in a particularly orderly fashion. If someone is convicted of a domestic violence-related offense, every state should place that person’s records into a state database so that the FBI can have access to it for when they perform a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check on the citizen. 

Our government needs to take domestic violence seriously enough — they need to treat it like the life-or-death situation that it is for millions of victims — to ensure that our investigative agencies have the information that they need to prevent unallowed citizens from obtaining firearms. There should be a streamlined process to make sure that keeping this information organized becomes a simple habit to maintain. 

The survival of domestic violence victims in the United States depends in large part on our ability to do the four above-mentioned things well. We have to decide as a country whether we want to stand for the defense of our most vulnerable citizens or for the ‘power by force’ crowd that will use any means necessary — even if that means is lethal. We have to stand for the 52 women being killed every month for whom the last picture in their mind is staring down the barrel of their partner’s gun.

Domestic violence victims need their lives more than abusers need their easy-to-acquire weapons.

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