Sensible gun control is a feminist issue and the lack of any real controls on firearms in this country poses a very real and dangerous threat to our health and safety.
The latest tragic example of this is the Brookfield, Wisconsin mall shooting where a man shot his estranged wife and seven other women at a spa. The shooter, Radcliffe Haughton, managed to get a legal firearm in Wisconsin despite an extensive history of domestic abuse. With help from Republicans, the National Rifle Association passed a background check loophole for firearms purchases that allows individuals to purchase guns from a private seller without submitting to a background check.
In Haughton’s case that means that two days after a court issued a restraining order against him for violent threats against his wife that required Haughton to turn in any firearms he owned to the police he was able to legally and lawfully get a gun without anyone’s knowledge.
As reported by Media Matters, in 2010, the National Rifle Association successfully lobbied against Wisconsin legislation that would have required individuals subject to a restraining order to turn in their weapons within 48 hours or face arrest. At the time Haughton purchased his gun he was prohibited under federal law from purchasing one. A private seller sold him one anyways. Federal law requires that individuals “engaged in the business of selling firearms” obtain a license and conduct background checks on their customers. But the definition of what it means to be “engaged in the business” is vague and allows the private sales market. An estimated 40 percent of gun sales are conducted by private sellers without a background check.
Not surprisingly, the NRA doesn’t think this is their problem. The NRA opposes mandatory background checks on gun purchases and has repeatedly denied that allowing private sales without a background check poses a danger to the public.
Neither do Republicans who have let critical services that aid domestic violence victims languish while they posture over expansion of the Violence Against Women Act. According to Forbes, in a survey of 733 domestic violence shelters across the country, nearly 80 percent have seen an increase in requests for help this year, and almost 60 percent said the abuse has become more violent than before the recession. This is while about 80 percent of the shelters surveyed reported decreased government assistance which means that over 90 percent of the shelters had to end or scale back programs and services.
With the pro-gun lobby joining forces with the misogynist base of the GOP it is open season on women’s lives. Half of all women murdered in this country are killed by a partner or an ex-partner yet ammunition for firearms is easier to purchase than birth control pills. What does that say about the value we place on women’s lives?
Photo from robertnelson via flickr.