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Every 12 hours, someone is shot and killed by a current or former intimate partner in the United States.

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In the United States, firearms are the weapons of choice for domestic violence homicides. In fact, female intimate partners are more likely to be murdered with a gun than all other means combined. The lethal connection between firearms and domestic violence calls for immediate action.

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Domestic violence cuts across race, gender identity, geographic region, sexual orientation, and class. 

One-third of women and one-quarter of men in the U.S. are victims of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during their lifetime. Every year, around 10 million people in this country experience domestic violence – including hundreds who are shot and killed by their current or former domestic partner.

On average,

739

people are shot and killed by a current or former intimate partner each year.

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The connection between guns and domestic violence.

The presence of a firearm can threaten, intimidate, psychologically abuse, and force compliance on a partner. When a firearm is used in a domestic violence situation in any way, it creates trauma that will stay with a person for the rest of their life – even if no shots were fired. The intersection of firearms and domestic violence are deadly. The mere presence of a firearm in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.

Between 2019-2021, the number of intimate partner homicides involving a firearm increased by 28%, which coincided with the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns and the rapid increase in firearm purchases between 2020-2021.

Furthermore, the FBI’s supplementary homicide data indicated that between 2000 and 2007 there were 961 homicides involving family members. Virtually all of these familicides, or the homicides of families, were carried out with firearms. In instances of intimate partner homicide where at least one person was killed in addition to the intimate partner, 25% of additional victims are under 18-years-old.

Between 2014-2019, 60% of mass shooting events in the United States were either domestic violence attacks or perpetrated by those with a history of domestic violence. Most mass shootings associated with domestic violence are acts of familicide. But other mass shootings that appear to be unrelated to domestic violence on the surface were committed by those with domestic violence histories. Several perpetrators of high-profile school shootings – including in the Parkland shooting, the Santa Fe High School shooting, and the Great Mills High School shooting – have histories of teen dating violence. Other high-profile mass shootings have also been committed by perpetrators with records of domestic violence. For example, the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead was perpetrated by a man who physically abused his ex-wife throughout their marriage. The Sutherland Springs church shooter who shot and killed 26 people had been charged with assaulting his wife and toddler stepson.

Domestic violence disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.

Underserved populations across the country — including Black and Indigenous women, women younger than 20 years old, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community — face disproportionately higher rates of domestic violence involving guns.

The dangerous effects of firearms in the home of a domestic abuser cannot be ignored. The mere presence of a firearm is a key factor influencing the process that turns abusive partners into killers. The presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%. The statistics are devastating:

  • Every year, 556 women are killed by a husband or male dating partner with a gun–an average of one woman every 16 hours, and every 12 hours, someone is shot and killed by a current or former intimate partner.

  • In 2016 alone, more than 4.5 million women in America were threatened by a domestic abuser with a firearm.

  • Between 2018-2020, the number of intimate partner homicides involving a firearm increased by 21.8%.

  • Black women are disproportionately the victims of fatal domestic violence with firearms, accounting for 30% of women shot and killed by a husband or intimate acquaintance in 2020, and are also twice as likely to be killed by a spouse, and four times more likely to be killed by a dating partner, than white women.

  • In 2020 alone, over 21,000 people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or subjected to a domestic violence restraining order were blocked from completing an unlawful firearms transaction by the Brady Background Check System.

Roughly

43%

of LGBTQ adolescents experience physical dating violence.

Source

Federal laws working to disarm domestic abusers

There is overwhelming public support for gun safety laws that prevent abusers from accessing guns. The vast majority of Americans — 83% — favor a federal law that bans domestic abusers from purchasing a gun. Among all gun safety measures, gun owners are most likely to support laws prohibiting gun possession by domestic abusers, with 77% supporting laws that prohibit gun possession by those subject to a domestic violence restraining order.

Existing federal laws around guns and domestic violence have been effective in protecting families where a court has determined that there is a threat of danger. Historically, our nation’s laws have long prohibited individuals who are a risk of harming themselves or others from possessing firearms in the interest of public safety. Under federal law, those subject to a qualifying domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) cannot legally possess a firearm. This law includes procedural safeguards, ensuring domestic abusers are only disarmed after receiving notice and the opportunity to participate in a hearing before a judge. Research shows that laws restricting firearm purchases for individuals subject to DVROs are associated with a 10% reduction in rates of intimate homicide of women, and a 13% reduction in rates of intimate homicide of women with firearms. 

Additionally, those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence that involve the use or attempted use of force are prevented from possessing a firearm under federal law. This statute, known as the “Lautenberg Amendment,” was found by a 2017 Stanford University study to have resulted in a 17% drop in murders of intimate female partners.

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Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court is debating arming domestic abusers in United States v. Rahimi

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In a case before the Supreme Court, United States v. Rahimi, the Justices will decide whether it is constitutional under the Second Amendment to ban access to firearms for dangerous abusers subject to qualifying domestic violence restraining orders.

If the Supreme Court does not clarify that the Constitution allows us to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, then countless lives will be at risk — especially those of women, children, and members of underserved communities.

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