State Background Check Requirements and Rates of Domestic Violence Homicide

January 15, 2015

Loopholes in federal and state law make it easy for dangerous people – including domestic abusers – to get guns. But Everytown’s research shows that common-sense public safety laws can help reduce intimate partner gun violence of women and save lives. Simply put, background check laws make women safer: Controlling for population, there are 46 percent fewer intimate partner gun homicides of women in states that require background checks for private handgun sales than in states that do not.

Methodology

Everytown compared the number of women killed with guns by current or former male partners (husband, ex-husband, common-law husband, or boyfriend) over a five-year period (2008-12) in states that did or did not require background checks for unlicensed, “private” handgun sales.

Data were obtained from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR). Available online at http://bit.ly/1oWiuB3. The SHR do not include data from the state of Florida. We obtained data for that state directly from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Women killed by former (as opposed to current) dating-partners are not categorized in the data, and could not be included.

The SHR data is periodically updated as new information on deaths becomes available. This analysis used data obtained on September 25, 2014.

Results

Throughout the study period, 14 states and the District of ColumbiaWe analyzed data for states that required background checks for all handgun sales during the period 2008-12. Since then, Colorado, Delaware, and Washington adopted these laws as well. required all gun buyers to undergo background checks before buying handguns in unlicensed sales, and 36 states did not. During that period, the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement recorded 911 gun homicides of women by current or former intimate partners in the former group of states, and 2,199 in the latter. Adjusting for population, there were 46 percent fewer intimate partner gun homicides of women in states that require background checks for all handgun sales than in states that do not.

Female gun homicides by victim

Sensitivity Analysis

Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the FBI collect data on firearm homicides — the former from medical-examiners and the latter from local law enforcement. Each has distinct advantages and flaws. The CDC’s National Vital Statistics System records a higher percentage of all firearm deaths but fails to capture details about their circumstances, including the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim. This makes it unsuitable for measuring gun violence between intimate partners. In contrast, the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports include details on the perpetrator and murder weapon but are more likely to be missing records because the FBI relies on police departments to voluntarily submit their homicide data on an annual basis. Despite these gaps, SHR data are utilized widely in the criminology community.See James Alan Fox, “Missing Data Problems in the SHR: Imputing Offender and Relationship Characteristics,” Homicide Studies 8, no. 214 (2004); and Catherine Barber and David Hemenway, “Underestimates of Unintentional Firearm Fatalities: Comparing Supplementary Homicide Report Data with the National Vital Statistics System,” Injury Prevention 8 (2002).

To assess the impact of underreporting of homicides by different states, Everytown compared the number of SHR homicide records by year and state to those recorded by the CDC, and determined that in 41 states, more than 75 percent of the female homicides recorded by the CDC’s Fatal Injury Reports were recorded in the SHR.States in which fewer than 75 of female homicides recorded by the SHR were Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Montana, and West Virginia.

To assess the sensitivity of the analysis to states where fewer than 75 percent of homicides had been recorded, Everytown repeated the analysis without them. The results did not differ appreciably, and are not reported.

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Loopholes in federal and state law make it easy for dangerous people – including domestic abusers – to get guns. But
Everytown’s research shows that common-sense public safety laws can help reduce intimate partner gun violence of women and
save lives. Simply put, background check laws make women safer: Controlling for population, there are 46 percent fewer intimate
partner gun homicides of women in states that require background checks for private handgun sales than in states that do not.
METHODOLOGY
Everytown compared the number of women killed with guns by current or former male partners (husband, ex-husband,
common-law husband, or boyfriend) over a five-year period (2008-12) in states that did or did not require background checks for
unlicensed, “private” handgun sales.
Data were obtained from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR).1
The SHR do not include data from the state of
Florida. We obtained data for that state directly from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Women killed by former (as
opposed to current) dating-partners are not categorized in the data, and could not be included.
The SHR data is periodically updated as new information on deaths becomes available. This analysis used data obtained on
September 25, 2014.
STATE BACKGROUND CHECK REQUIREMENTS
AND RATES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOMICIDE
Female Population,
(2008-2012 average)
Female Gun
Homicides by
Intimate Partners
(2008-2012 total)
Female Gun
Homicides by
Intimate Partners per
Million Women
(2008-2012 total)
Total 157,051,310 3,110 3.96
States that require a
background check for
private handgun sales (15)
68,442,298 911 2.66
States that do not require
a background check for
private handgun sales (36)
88,609,012 2,199 4.96
Difference -46%
SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS
Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the FBI collect data on firearm homicides — the former from medical-examiners
and the latter from local law enforcement. Each has distinct advantages and flaws. The CDC’s National Vital Statistics System
records a higher percentage of all firearm deaths but fails to capture details about their circumstances, including the relationship
of the perpetrator to the victim. This makes it unsuitable for measuring gun violence between intimate partners. In contrast, the
FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports include details on the perpetrator and murder weapon but are more likely to be missing
records because the FBI relies on police departments to voluntarily submit their homicide data on an annual basis. Despite these
gaps, SHR data are utilized widely in the criminology community.3
To assess the impact of underreporting of homicides by different states, Everytown compared the number of SHR homicide
records by year and state to those recorded by the CDC, and determined that in 41 states, more than 75 percent of the female
homicides recorded by the CDC’s Fatal Injury Reports were recorded in the SHR.4
To assess the sensitivity of the analysis to states where fewer than 75 percent of homicides had been recorded, Everytown
repeated the analysis without them. The results did not differ appreciably, and are not reported.
1. Available online at http://bit.ly/1oWiuB3.
2. We analyzed data for states that required background checks for all handgun sales during the period 2008-12. Since then, Colorado, Delaware, and Washington adopted these
laws as well.
3. See James Alan Fox, “Missing Data Problems in the SHR: Imputing Offender and Relationship Characteristics,” Homicide Studies 8, no. 214 (2004); and Catherine Barber and David
Hemenway, “Underestimates of Unintentional Firearm Fatalities: Comparing Supplementary Homicide Report Data with the National Vital Statistics System,” Injury
Prevention 8 (2002).
4. States in which fewer than 75 of female homicides recorded by the SHR were Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Montana,
and West Virginia.
RESULTS
Throughout the study period, 14 states and
the District of Columbia2
required all gun
buyers to undergo background checks
before buying handguns in unlicensed
sales, and 36 states did not. During that
period, the FBI and Florida Department of
Law Enforcement recorded 911 gun
homicides of women by current or former
intimate partners in the former group of
states, and 2,199 in the latter. Adjusting for
population, there were 46 percent fewer
intimate partner gun homicides of women
in states that require background checks
for all handgun sales than in states that do
not.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE GUN HOMICIDES OF WOMEN, 2008-2012
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2008-2012
BACKGROUND
CHECK REQUIRED
FOR ALL HANDGUN
SALES?
HUSBAND
EX-HUSBAND
CL HUSBAND
BOYFRIEND
TOTAL
HUSBAND
EX-HUSBAND
CL HUSBAND
BOYFRIEND
TOTAL
HUSBAND
EX-HUSBAND
CL HUSBAND
BOYFRIEND
TOTAL
HUSBAND
EX-HUSBAND
CL HUSBAND
BOYFRIEND
TOTAL
HUSBAND
EX-HUSBAND
CL HUSBAND
BOYFRIEND
TOTAL
AVERAGE
FEMALE
POPULATION
AVERAGE
ANNUAL DV GUN
MURDERS OF
WOMEN
DOMESTIC
VIOLENCE GUN
HOMICIDES PER
MILLION WOMEN
ALABAMA* NO 13 1 1 8 23 14 1 0 9 24 7 3 1 4 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2,458,430 12 5.04
ALASKA NO 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 3 340,969 1 4.11
ARIZONA NO 6 1 0 7 14 11 1 0 5 17 10 1 0 6 17 15 1 1 3 20 17 1 0 7 25 3,221,418 19 5.77
ARKANSAS* NO 3 0 0 6 9 2 0 0 3 5 3 0 0 4 7 2 0 0 2 4 3 1 0 3 7 1,483,975 6 4.31
CALIFORNIA YES 30 3 0 23 56 30 4 1 21 56 47 3 1 26 77 38 4 1 30 73 26 5 1 23 55 18,753,607 63 3.38
COLORADO NO 5 0 0 3 8 7 1 0 3 11 3 0 0 3 6 1 2 2 2 7 8 0 2 3 13 2,512,529 9 3.58
CONNECTICUT YES 1 0 0 1 2 2 0 1 3 6 6 0 0 0 6 2 1 0 0 3 3 0 0 4 7 1,832,787 5 2.62
DELAWARE NO 1 0 0 2 3 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 3 3 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 1 1 463,870 2 4.74
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA* YES 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 319,115 0.4 1.25
FLORIDA NO 34 0 15 0 49 47 0 14 0 61 39 0 9 0 48 46 0 15 0 61 43 0 15 0 58 9,647,051 55 5.74
GEORGIA NO 15 0 0 12 27 19 1 0 9 29 21 0 0 10 31 11 4 1 11 27 17 2 0 17 36 4,962,723 30 6.05
HAWAII YES 3 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 678,774 2 2.65
IDAHO NO 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 1 1 7 1 1 1 3 6 3 1 0 0 4 782,085 4 4.86
ILLINOIS* YES 0 0 0 3 3 3 0 0 1 4 2 1 0 2 5 0 2 0 1 3 1 0 0 1 2 6,531,162 3 0.52
INDIANA NO 6 3 0 5 14 3 0 0 6 9 5 1 0 7 13 7 0 0 5 12 4 1 0 9 14 3,293,709 12 3.76
IOWA YES 2 0 0 1 3 3 0 0 0 3 3 0 0 2 5 3 0 1 0 4 2 0 0 0 2 1,538,377 3 2.21
KANSAS NO 0 0 0 2 2 4 2 0 1 7 3 1 1 2 7 4 0 1 3 8 3 1 0 3 7 1,435,312 6 4.32
KENTUCKY NO 9 1 0 3 13 6 2 0 6 14 9 2 0 3 14 5 0 0 2 7 7 0 0 5 12 2,204,591 12 5.44
LOUISIANA* NO 7 1 0 8 16 7 3 1 10 21 8 1 0 7 16 9 0 0 6 15 5 0 1 9 15 2,312,983 17 7.18
MAINE NO 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 5 0 0 0 5 3 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 2 2 678,675 2 3.54
MARYLAND YES 5 1 0 5 11 3 0 0 2 5 2 0 0 2 4 5 0 0 5 10 3 1 0 3 7 2,984,791 7 2.48
MASSACHUSETTS YES 1 0 1 0 2 1 0 0 1 2 3 0 0 2 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3,384,184 2 0.59
MICHIGAN YES 9 1 0 3 13 7 0 1 7 15 6 2 0 8 16 8 2 1 4 15 7 1 1 1 10 5,041,767 14 2.74
MINNESOTA NO 4 0 0 2 6 2 0 0 2 4 3 2 0 0 5 4 1 0 5 10 3 0 0 2 5 2,674,595 6 2.24
MISSISSIPPI* NO 4 0 0 5 9 5 0 1 3 9 5 0 0 3 8 4 1 0 2 7 3 0 0 5 8 1,526,305 8 5.37
MISSOURI NO 12 2 0 7 21 9 1 0 11 21 8 1 0 8 17 8 1 0 7 16 8 0 0 6 14 3,051,910 18 5.83
MONTANA* NO 0 0 0 5 5 2 0 0 1 3 4 0 0 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 3 493,350 3 6.49
NEBRASKA* YES 2 1 0 0 3 3 0 0 1 4 0 0 0 3 3 2 0 0 2 4 0 0 0 1 1 919,998 3 3.26
NEVADA NO 7 0 0 3 10 7 0 0 3 10 4 0 0 5 9 2 1 0 4 7 6 1 0 1 8 1,337,692 9 6.58
NEW HAMPSHIRE* NO 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 2 667,340 1 2.10
NEW JERSEY YES 8 0 0 4 12 6 0 0 5 11 1 0 0 1 2 2 0 0 2 4 6 0 0 1 7 4,509,440 7 1.60
NEW MEXICO NO 2 0 0 2 4 3 0 0 4 7 2 0 0 2 4 2 1 0 2 5 0 0 0 2 2 1,038,768 4 4.24
NEW YORK YES 8 1 0 9 18 13 0 0 8 21 5 0 0 13 18 6 1 0 10 17 6 1 0 8 15 10,004,577 18 1.78
NORTH CAROLINA YES 11 0 1 17 29 8 0 0 14 22 12 0 0 15 27 14 0 0 8 22 15 2 1 12 30 4,891,295 26 5.32
NORTH DAKOTA NO 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 334,173 1 2.39
OHIO* NO 6 2 0 3 11 12 1 0 6 19 14 0 0 4 18 9 0 2 6 17 11 1 2 9 23 5,902,413 18 2.98
OKLAHOMA NO 3 2 2 5 12 3 0 1 9 13 4 0 0 5 9 8 2 1 5 16 7 1 0 3 11 1,892,766 12 6.45
OREGON NO 3 0 0 0 3 3 0 1 4 8 6 0 0 4 10 7 0 0 4 11 7 0 0 1 8 1,937,164 8 4.13
PENNSYLVANIA YES 13 3 1 12 29 21 1 1 14 37 10 0 0 7 17 12 0 0 11 23 12 1 2 13 28 6,508,618 27 4.12
RHODE ISLAND YES 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 543,804 1 1.84
SOUTH CAROLINA NO 10 0 3 4 17 9 0 0 10 19 10 1 2 7 20 8 1 1 12 22 10 1 0 10 21 2,376,395 20 8.33
SOUTH DAKOTA NO 2 0 0 1 3 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 1 407,227 2 3.93
TENNESSEE NO 13 0 0 9 22 10 0 0 10 20 9 1 0 12 22 7 0 0 16 23 13 1 0 8 22 3,254,762 22 6.70
TEXAS NO 48 4 5 17 74 40 3 6 16 65 49 3 15 22 89 27 4 5 25 61 30 4 3 21 58 12,690,013 69 5.47
UTAH NO 1 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 3 5 3 0 0 1 4 4 0 0 0 4 1 0 0 3 4 1,375,281 4 2.62
VERMONT NO 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 317,251 1 3.15
VIRGINIA NO 6 2 0 12 20 19 0 0 7 26 14 1 2 14 31 14 2 1 7 24 5 1 0 1 7 4,078,141 22 5.30
WASHINGTON NO 4 0 0 3 7 3 0 1 10 14 7 0 0 7 14 5 1 1 2 9 8 0 1 2 11 3,376,902 11 3.26
WEST VIRGINIA* NO 5 2 1 3 11 3 0 1 1 5 3 0 0 0 3 6 0 0 2 8 5 0 0 1 6 938,441 7 7.03
WISCONSIN NO 6 0 0 1 7 8 2 0 0 10 2 0 0 1 3 3 0 0 0 3 2 0 0 2 4 2,864,138 5 1.89
WYOMING NO 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 275,665 1 2.90
*For starred states, total homicides of women reported to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports by state law enforcement were less than 75 percent of the total reported by the CDC. Calculated domestic
violence gun homicide rates for these states are likely underestimates. homicides of women reported to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports by state law enforcement were less than 75 percent of the total
reported by the CDC. Calculated domestic violence gun homicide rates for these states are likely underestimates.

Domestic Violence Homicide

Domestic Violence Homicide