To End Mass Shootings, We Must Tackle Domestic Violence

While Capitol Police were averting a tragedy in Virginia on Wednesday with their swift response to an active shooter at Congressional Baseball Game practice, a very different story was unfolding across the country in San Francisco, where a man entered a UPS facility and killed three people before shooting himself.

Both incidents added to the growing list of American gun violence in 2017, and one of them highlights the need to talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to gun control: intimate partner violence.

James T. Hodgkinson, the Virginia shooter, had a violent history, with an arrest for “domestic battery” and “reckless discharge of a firearm” in 2005. In other words, Hodgkinson was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an intimate partner, and there was a gun in the mix.

The majority of mass shootings — those in which four or more people are killed — in America are actually cases of intimate partner violence, and in other types of shootings, perpetrators often had violent records.

In other words, if we want to prevent mass shootings, we might want to start by taking guns away from people with domestic violence convictions. Although that wouldn’t bring the death rate to zero, it would make a big difference.

Here’s what we know: According to research conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, 54 percent of mass shootings in America involve intimate partner violence — often including children. 18 percent of mass shootings involve people with previous intimate partner violence charges and/or convictions.

When a gun is present, the risk of dying in an abusive relationship increases by 500 percent, with American women dying by gun violence at rates much higher than women in other Western nations.

Omar Mateen, the Pulse shooter, had a history of intimate partner violence. So did Cedric Anderson, who walked into a San Bernardino classroom in April to kill his wife and one of her students. Elliot Rodger, who went on a misogynistic rampage in 2014, also had a history. So did Robert Lewis Dear, who targeted a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in 2015. The list goes on. 

We also know that there are considerable loopholes in both state and federal law that allow people with a history of domestic violence to get — or keep — guns, even when they shouldn’t be able to.

Abusive dating partners and stalkers can both obtain guns, for example, with federal barriers only applying to current or former spouses/live-in partners and coparents. People on temporary restraining orders are also allowed to buy firearms.

Federal law only requires background checks for licensed dealers, in the so-called “gun show loophole,” which enables killers to buy guns online, at gun shows or from private parties. In states that require comprehensive background checks for handgun purchases, the number of women shot by intimate partners declined by 38 percent.

Only 16 states require people with domestic violence convictions to surrender their guns. And, of course, if a partner doesn’t report abuse, or doesn’t cooperate with authorities in the process of pressing charges, no conviction goes on an abuser’s record.

Smart gun laws save lives. The United States could make everyone much safer with a few commonsense updates to gun laws that reflect the realities of the modern gun market:

  • Close the gun show loophole: If someone buys a weapon, they should be required to receive a background check. Period.
  • Close the “boyfriend loophole” by ensuring that restrictions on gun ownership apply to dating partners and stalkers.
  • Enact a framework for confiscating guns from people convicted of crimes that restrict their gun ownership privileges.

We know that gun laws work. Locating an obvious risk factor for gun violence and addressing it should be a bipartisan issue, because no one supports gun violence.

States should also think bigger, expanding their framework for handling intimate partner violence to make it safer and easier to report — and more straightforward to prosecute. After all, gun laws can only apply to people with a record

Many people are afraid to report, fearing retaliation or feeling that law enforcement will not take action. The burden is on society to believe and support victims, because they’re the canaries in the coal mine.

Photo credit: AndJam79

59 comments

Margie F
Margie FOURIE3 months ago

And domestic violence is increasing.

SEND
Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Carl R
Carl R4 months ago

Thanks!!!

SEND
David F
David F4 months ago

Now that the Dimwitocrats are out of power the gun sales are down:-)

Another bad guy with a gun was stopped by a good guy with a gun.

SEND
Winn A
Winn A4 months ago

And domestic violence continues. . . . . .

SEND
Winn A
Winn A4 months ago

Know one is Listening. They are just waiting for their turn to talk.

SEND
Winn A
Winn A4 months ago

Know one wants to sit down with each other on both sides of the political spectrum to discuss why a private citizen needs an automatic weapon.

SEND
Winn A
Winn A4 months ago

Know one wants to sit down with each other to discuss responsible gun ownership.

SEND
Winn A
Winn A4 months ago

This is particularly true of Republican Officials.

SEND
Winn A
Winn A4 months ago

There is no such thing as empathy when it comes to elected officials HEARING your concerns about gun violence.

SEND