Four Awful Facts and Four Important Solutions To Help End Domestic Violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the scope of domestic violence is simply startling. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year. Nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) and 1 in 10 men (10%) in the US have experienced this violence in their lifetimes and reported a related impact on their functioning.
Guns turn domestic violence into murder. And as you might expect, this problem is particularly bad in the United States. Here are four facts about intimate partner homicide in America:
1. Women are frequent victims of gun violence. A woman is murdered with a gun in the U.S. every five hours.
2. Women in the United States are much more likely to be shot and killed than in other developed nations. Women in the Unites States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than are women in other high-income countries.
3. Guns are the most common weapon that intimate partners use to kill women. Between 2003 and 2012, more than half of all women murdered by intimate partners were killed with a gun.
4. This is equivalent to a war at home. Since 2001, more women have been murdered by an intimate partner with a gun than the number of U.S. troops killed in Combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
There are common sense reforms we can make to help protect women from all forms of abuse and end domestic abuse. Here are four policy solutions, adapted from a Center for American Progress report investigating the subject:
1. Bar all convicted abusers, stalkers, and people subject to related restraining orders from possessing guns. While a number of states have some laws on the books to prevent convicted domestic abusers from owning guns, only 9 states prevent people convicted of misdemeanor stalking crimes from possessing guns. That means, in most states, you can be convicted of stalking and still walk into a store, pass a background check, and buy a gun. That puts women at greater risk.
2. Provide all records of prohibited abusers to the federal background check system. Even in the places where the laws appropriately bar domestic abusers and stalkers from possessing guns, states need to do a better job submitting their records into the national criminal background check system so that if a prohibited purchaser goes to buy a gun, they are denied.
3. Require a background check for all gun sales. What does it matter if all abusers are correctly defined as prohibited purchasers, and all of their names are submitted to the national background check system, if these abusers can easily find a way to buy a gun without having to go through a background check through a gun show or online?
4. Ensure that abusers surrender any firearms they own once they become prohibited. Finally, laws must establish clear guidelines for law enforcement to ensure that those who are prohibited from buying guns because of a domestic violence crime are required to surrender their guns.
There is bipartisan legislation in both the House and the Senate that take some of these steps and protect domestic abuse and stalking victims. More than 80% of Americans support legislation of this type.
BOTTOM LINE: Intimate partner violence is a serious problem, and guns too often turn domestic disputes fatal. There are solutions with widespread support to help prevent domestic abusers and stalkers from obtaining firearms. It’s on Congress to act to protect all women and help end domestic violence.
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