Every month, an average of 52 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner.
The Nexus Of Intimate Partner Violence And Guns
In the United States, more than one in three women report experiencing abuse from a partner in their lifetime.1Smith SG, Zhang X, Basile KC, et al. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2015 data brief—updated release. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. November 2018. https://bit.ly/2DbVS9S. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious public health problem that affects millions of American women, with far-reaching impacts not only for individual victims, but also for their families, their communities, and our economy. Although IPV affects people of all genders and sexual orientations, the impact of abuse, including rates of severe physical violence and violence inflicted with a firearm, is predominantly experienced by women with male partners.2Women report lifetime IPV that resulted in a significant impact (e.g. medical care) at a rate of 24 percent, compared to a rate of 11 percent among men. Women also report experiencing higher rates of severe physical violence at a rate of 21 percent, compared to a rate of 15 percent among men. Smith SG, Zhang X, Basile KC, et al. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2015 data brief—updated release. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. November 2018. https://bit.ly/2DbVS9S. Fridel EE, Fox JA. Gender differences in patterns and trends in US homicide, 1976-2017. Violence and Gender. 2019. Guns amplify the inherent power and control dynamics characteristic of abusive intimate relationships, whether as lethal weapons to injure and kill or as a tool to inflict emotional abuse without ever firing a bullet.
What is IPV?
The terms intimate partner violence (IPV) and domestic violence are often used interchangeably. IPV can take many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse, as well as stalking by a current or former intimate partner.1Breiding MJ, Basile KC, Smith SG, Black MC, Mahendra R. Intimate partner violence surveillance: uniform definitions and recommended data elements, version 2.0. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2015. https://bit.ly/2NDaYvQ. Intimate partner relationships include current or former spouses (married spouses, common-law spouses, civil union spouses, domestic partners), boyfriends/girlfriends, dating partners, and ongoing sexual partners. Intimate partners may or may not be cohabiting and can be opposite or same sex. Domestic violence is generally considered to encompass any abuse in the context of the home or family, including child or elder abuse. Intimate partner violence refers specifically to abuse committed by an intimate partner. Historically, IPV was referred to as domestic violence at a time when most relationships were marital and involved cohabiting partners. As the nature of intimate relationships has changed considerably in society, IPV is a more inclusive term to cover abuse in the context of varied relationships, including dating partners and partners who have a child in common but do not cohabit. Today, most international organizations and national agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) use the term IPV.
In the US, the crisis of intimate partner violence is inextricably linked to the widespread and growing use of guns by abusers.
92% of all women killed with guns in high-income countries in 2015 were from the US.
Over half of female victims of intimate partner homicide in the US are killed with a gun,3Followed by female intimate partner homicide with a knife, hands/feet, asphyxiation, unknown, and fire. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), 2013-2017. While the FBI SHR does not include data from Florida for the years 2013 to 2017, Everytown for Gun Safety obtained data directly from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and included the reported homicides in this analysis. Whereas SHR includes both current and former spouses in its relationship designations, FDLE does not include former spouses. As a result, Florida’s intimate partner violence data includes only current spouses. which translates to at least 52 women shot and killed by an intimate partner in an average month in the US.4Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), 2013-2017. While the FBI SHR does not include data from the state of Florida for the years 2013 to 2017, Everytown for Gun Safety obtained data directly from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and included the reported homicides in the analysis. Whereas SHR includes both current and former spouses in its relationship designations, FDLE does not include former spouses. As a result, Florida’s intimate partner violence data includes only current spouses. Sorenson SB, Schut RA. Nonfatal gun use in intimate partner violence: a systematic review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2018; 19(4): 431-442. The rate of killings of women by violent partners with a firearm has accelerated in recent years. Over the ten-year period between 2008 and 2017, there was a reduction in intimate partner homicides of women involving weapons—except homicides by guns, which increased by 15 percent.5Fridel EE, Fox JA. Gender differences in patterns and trends in the US homicide, 1976-2017. Violence and Gender. 2019; doi: 10.1089/vio.2019.0005. Data from this study were obtained by Everytown from the author James Alan Fox directly over email dated October 1, 2019 for this analysis. Guns are also used with alarming frequency by abusers to injure victims or attempt to do so—nearly 1 million women in the US alive today have reported being shot or shot at by an intimate partner.6Sorenson SB, Schut RA. Nonfatal gun use in intimate partner violence: a systematic review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2018;19(4):431-442.
Intimate partner homicides of women by guns are on the rise7Fridel EE, Fox JA. Gender differences in patterns and trends in the US homicide, 1976-2017. Violence and Gender. 2019; doi: 10.1089/vio.2019.0005. Data from this study were obtained by Everytown from the author James Alan Fox directly over email dated October 1, 2019 for this analysis. The weapon category “Other” includes blunt object—hammer, club, etc.; motor vehicle; personal weapon—hands, feet, teeth, etc.; poison; pushed or thrown out the window; explosives; fire; narcotics and drugs; drowning; strangulation—choking, hanging, etc; and asphyxiation.
Intimate partner gun violence makes the US uniquely dangerous for women.
When it comes to gun violence, the US is the most dangerous country for women among high-income nations. In 2015, an astounding 92 percent of all women killed with guns in these countries were from the US.8Grinshteyn E, Hemenway D. Violent death rates in the US compared to those of the other high-income countries, 2015. Preventive Medicine. 2019;123:20-26. This calculation is based on all gun deaths of women including gun suicides. In fact, women in the US are 21 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than women in peer nations.9Ibid. And much of this is driven by IPV. Nearly half of female firearm homicide victims were killed by a current or former intimate partner.10Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), 2013-2017. While the FBI SHR does not include data from Florida for the years 2013 to 2017, Everytown for Gun Safety obtained data directly from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and included the reported homicides in this analysis. Whereas SHR includes both current and former spouses in its relationship designations, FDLE does not include former spouses. As a result, Florida’s intimate partner violence data includes only current spouses. Public health researchers have established that in relationships where violence is present, abusers’ access to a gun significantly increases the risk of death for women. Access to a gun makes it five times more likely that the abusive partner will kill his female victim.11Campbell JC, Webster D, Koziol-McLain J, et al. Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite case control study. American Journal of Public Health. 2003;93(7):1089-1097.
La’Shea was at her aunt’s house with her children when her ex-boyfriend shot her five times and then shot himself. “He used to show up at my work and threaten me,” she recalls, citing several similar incidents. La’Shea went into a coma as a result of the shooting but miraculously survived. Today, the five bullets are still inside her. Her daughter is now an adult, and La’Shea advocates for gun violence prevention, sharing her story to draw attention to the deadly role of guns in intimate partner violence.
This narrative was provided by La’Shea Cretain, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network.
IPV has a tragic link to mass shootings and suicide.
Access to a gun makes it five times more likely that the abusive partner will kill his female victim.
From the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, to the recent tragedy in Dayton, Ohio, the men using firearms to inflict public terror often share histories of violence against women.12Goldman A. Orlando gunman’s wife breaks silence: “I was unaware.” New York Times. November 1, 2016. Grady C. The Dayton, Ohio, shooter reportedly kept a “rape list” of potential victims. Vox. August 5, 2019. An Everytown analysis of mass shootings—incidents in which four or more people are shot and killed, not including the shooter—revealed that in at least 54 percent of these incidents, the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member.13Everytown for Gun Safety. Mass Shootings in the United States, 2009-2018, forthcoming. https://every.tw/1XVAmcc. While research examining the connections between IPV, misogyny, and mass shootings is severely limited, analysis of recent mass shootings indicates shooters often had histories of IPV, stalking, or harassment.14Folman M. Armed and misogynist: how toxic masculinity fuels mass shootings. Mother Jones. June 2019. Britzky H. Most mass shooters have a history of violence against women. The California shooter did too. Axios. November 9, 2018. IPV gun homicide is also connected with gun suicide: Nearly two-thirds of all domestic violence–related mass shootings ended with a shooter killing themselves,15Everytown for Gun Safety. Mass Shootings in the United States, 2009-2018, forthcoming. https://every.tw/1XVAmcc. and it is not uncommon for abusers who threaten or commit gun violence against their partners or children to end up dying by firearm suicide.16Fourteen percent of homicide-suicide victims are children. Logan JE, Walsh S, Patel N, Hall JE. Homicide-followed-by-suicide incidents involving child victims. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2013;37(4):531–542.
Angela is a mother, grandmother, former law enforcement officer, and a survivor of intimate partner violence who has lived with the fear of being shot and killed by her ex-husband. Her ex-husband became abusive over time. “I would often be woken up in the middle of the night with the sound of ‘spin click spin click’ from a gun while it was pressed to the back of my neck,” she remembers.
This narrative was provided by Angela Wright, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network.
Abusers use guns to threaten and control their victims, and threats often escalate to lethal violence.
It is widely known that guns are exploited by abusers to exert power and control over their partners.17Sorenson SB, Schut RA. Nonfatal gun use in intimate partner violence: a systematic review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2018;19(4):431-442. About 4.5 million women in the US today report having been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner.18Ibid. In a 2018 survey of victim calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, over one-third of callers reported being threatened with a gun, and over three-fourths of those who experienced such threats reported their partner also stalked them.19Logan TK, Lynch KR. Dangerous liaisons: examining the connection of stalking and gun threats among partner abuse victims. Violence and Victims. 2018; 33(3): 399-416. Stalking is a predictor of lethality in intimate partner relationships: One study found that 76 percent of intimate partner homicides and 85 percent of attempted homicides of women were preceded by at least one incident of stalking in the year before the attack.20MacFarlane JM, Campbell JC, Wilt S, et al. Stalking and intimate partner femicide. Homicide Studies. 1999;3(4):300-316.
4.5 million women have reported being threatened with a gun.
Indeed, many abusers follow a common pattern of predetermined threats against and intimidation of their partners, even explicitly telling victims that a gun will be used against them. For this reason, law enforcement officials and victim advocates have learned to recognize the use of a gun by an abuser to threaten or intimidate their partner as a key predictor for intimate partner homicides.21Campbell JC, Webster D, Koziol-McLain J, et al. Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite case control study. American Journal of Public Health. 2003;93(7):1089-1097; Nicolaidis C, Curry MA, Ulrich Y, et al. Could we have known? A qualitative analysis of data from women who survived an attempted homicide by an intimate partner. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2003;18(10):788-794
Even when abusers do not ultimately pull the trigger, the abuser’s use of and access to a firearm creates psychological terror for the victim. One study found that women who had been threatened with a gun by their abuser or feared one would be used against them suffered more severe PTSD symptoms than those who had not endured threats with a gun.22Sullivan, TP, Weiss NH. Is firearm threat in intimate relationships associated with posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among women? Violence and Gender. 2017;4(2):31-36. According to the study author, “the fear of a firearm threat—just the fear of the threat, not even the actual threat—is significantly associated with PTSD. It’s stronger even than the link between physical or sexual abuse and PTSD.”23Mascia J. No shots fired. The Trace. September 12, 2018.
Arming victims with guns increases their risk.
The claim that intimate partner homicide can be prevented by arming victims with firearms is a harmful distraction from what we know actually works to protect women from gun violence. There is no research to support the idea that women’s gun ownership increases their safety, regardless of whether they are IPV victims. In fact, studies show the opposite—that women living in households with a firearm are at greater risk of homicide.24Anglemyer A, Horvath T, Rutherford G. The accessibility of firearms and risk for suicide and homicide victimization among household members: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014;160(2):101-110. An analysis of risk factors for women killed by their partners found that even those who live apart from their abuser saw no protective impact of owning a gun. Campbell JC, Webster D, Koziol-McLain J, et al. Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite case control study. American Journal of Public Health. 2003;93(7):1089-1097. A study of female intimate partner homicide risk factors found that even for women who lived apart from their abuser, there was no evidence of protective impact from owning a gun.25Campbell JC, Webster D, Koziol-McLain J, et al. Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite case control study. American Journal of Public Health. 2003;93(7):1089-1097.And a California study found that women who purchased a gun died by firearm homicide at twice the rate of women who did not.26Wintemute GJ, Parham CA, Beaumont JJ, Wright M, Drake C. Mortality among recent purchasers of handguns. New England Journal of Medicine. 1999;341(21):1583-1589. New research reinforces the inverse relationship between IPV victim safety and gun ownership. States with the highest rates of firearm ownership (i.e., the top quartile of states) have a 65 percent higher rate of IPV firearm homicide than states with the lowest rates of gun ownership (i.e., the lowest quartile).27Kivisto AJ, Magee LA, Phalen PL, Ray BR. Firearm ownership and domestic versus nondomestic homicide in the US. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2019;57(3):311-320. Therefore, advocating for women to be armed with guns blatantly ignores what researchers, survivors, and law enforcement know too well: Access to a firearm is associated with an increased risk of IPV homicide, and disrupting that access reduces the likelihood of IPV becoming deadly.28Zeoli AM, McCourt A, Buggs S, Frattaroli S, Lilley D, Webster DW. Analysis of the strength of legal firearms restrictions for perpetrators of domestic violence and their associations with intimate partner homicide. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2018; 187(11): 2365-2371. Díez C, Kurland RP, Rothman EF, et al. State intimate partner violence—related firearm laws and intimate partner homicide rates in the United States, 1991 to 2015. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017;167(8):536-543.
Abusers with guns not only kill their partners, but too often also take the lives of family, friends, coworkers, and responding law enforcement officers.
80 percent of child victims of mass shootings died in incidents connected to domestic or family violence.
The impact of IPV with guns extends beyond the intimate partner relationship, significantly impacting others, especially children. A study of intimate partner homicides in 16 states found that one in five victims were family members (including children), friends, persons who intervened, first responders, and strangers. In roughly 70 percent of these deaths, the perpetrator used a firearm.29Smith SG, Fowler KA, Niolon PH. Intimate partner homicide and corollary victims in 16 states: National Violent Death Reporting System, 2003–2009. American Journal of Public Health. 2014;104(3):461-466. It is widely known among law enforcement officers that IPV incidents (domestic disturbance calls) are the most dangerous assignments they take on the job, in large part due to abusers’ use of guns.30Calls related to domestic disputes and domestic-related incidents represented the highest number of fatal types of calls for service. Breul N, Keith, M. Deadly calls and fatal encounters: analysis of US law enforcement line of duty deaths when officers responded to dispatched calls for service and conducted enforcement (2010–2014). National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. 2016. Ninety-five percent of law enforcement officer deaths in response to domestic disturbances between 1996 and 2010 were from a firearm. Kercher C, Swedler DI, Pollack KM, Webster DW. Homicides of law enforcement officers responding to domestic disturbance calls. Injury Prevention. 2013;19(5):331-335.
Hollie dropped off her 2½-year-old son, Michael, for a supervised visit with her ex-husband on March 23, 2013, in Petersburg, Pennsylvania. Hollie survived being shot in the legs and face by her ex, but he killed Michael before fatally shooting himself. Hollie had a restraining order against him, which prohibited him from possessing a firearm, but he was not required to surrender his gun. “The system failed my son again and again: when the judge decided not to extend my ex-husband’s hospitalization; when he was arrested and quickly released for violating the protection from abuse order twice; when he was allowed visitations to our son; when his firearms were not made inaccessible…. I couldn’t protect Michael from the system that failed him, but I can try to protect others whose lives are still at stake. As Americans, we need to reevaluate the system that puts thousands of lives at risk every day. My son was just 2½ years old when his life was stolen. We need to do more to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
This narrative was provided by Hollie Ayers, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network.
Children’s exposure to IPV gun violence is permanently damaging, if not deadly.
Children are particularly affected by IPV with guns. For children under age 13 who are victims of gun homicide, nearly one-third are connected to intimate partner or family violence.31Fowler KA, Dahlberg LL, Haileyesus T, Gutierrez C, Bacon S. Childhood firearm injuries in the United States. Pediatrics. 2017;140(1). Between 2009 and 2018, 80 percent of child victims of mass shootings died in incidents connected to domestic or family violence.32Everytown for Gun Safety. Mass Shootings in the United States, 2009-2018, forthcoming. https://every.tw/1XVAmcc. Data drawn from 16 states indicate that nearly two-thirds of child fatalities involving domestic violence were caused by guns.33Adhia A, Austin SB, Fitzmaurice GM, Hemenway D. The role of intimate partner violence in homicides of children aged 2-14 years. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2019;56(1):38-46.
Data drawn from 16 states indicates that nearly two thirds of child fatalities involving domestic violence were caused by guns.
There is also ample evidence that children who survive and witness the death of their parent from IPV suffer life-altering consequences, including severe PTSD, behavioral problems, and suicidal thoughts.34Hardesty JL, Campbell JC, McFarlane JM, Lewandowski LA. How children and their caregivers adjust after intimate partner femicide. Journal of Family Issues. 2008;29(1):100-124.These impacts significantly disrupt children’s school performance,35Alisic E, Krishna RN, Groot A, Frederick JW. Children’s mental health and well-being after parental intimate partner homicide: a systematic review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. 2015;18(4):328-345. and the trauma can follow them into adulthood.36Lysell H, Dahlin M, Långström N, Lichtenstein P, Runeson B. Killing the mother of one’s child: psychiatric risk factors among male perpetrators and offspring health consequences. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2016;77(3):342-347. Tragically, children can also be caught in the crosshairs of dangerous relationship violence when courts mandate continued contact with their abusive parent.
The Unequal Burden Of Firearm-related Intimate Partner Violence On Communities At Highest Risk
People of all races and ethnicities experience IPV, but the burden of relationship violence, including with firearms, is not shared equally by all women.37The burden of IPV is not shared equally across all groups; many racial/ethnic and sexual minority groups are disproportionately affected by IPV. Niolon PH, Kearns M, Dills J ,et al. Preventing intimate partner violence across the lifespan: a technical package of programs, policies, and practices. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. 2017. Women from communities with histories of racial discrimination, often intertwined with higher poverty rates, have less access to protective services that reduce the risk of lethal violence.38Factors that put individuals at risk for perpetrating IPV include (but are not limited to) demographic factors such as age (adolescence and young adulthood), low income, low educational attainment, and unemployment; childhood history factors such as exposure to violence between parents, experiencing poor parenting, and experiencing child abuse and neglect, including sexual violence. Ibid. Poverty is a community-level risk factor for IPV that often, but not always, intersects with racial disparities. Victim advocates working in rural regions of the US, like Appalachia, know that women living in these areas are at higher risk for some of the most severe forms of IPV due to a lack of resources in their communities, including great distances between victims and their nearest shelter, hospital, or law enforcement agency: https://bit.ly/2MkPuCJ/. One study of women hospitalized in Appalachia due to IPV found that, compared with other parts of the country, victims requiring medical attention for IPV were more likely to identify as white, and almost two-thirds of these patients lived in communities with the lowest annual median income quartile: https://bit.ly/35BHViJ/. It is important to understand this data in the context of high rates of gun ownership in rural America: https://pewrsr.ch/2IVXb0k/.” As seen in the table below, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic women are victims of homicide at the highest rates, and over 55 percent of these killings are committed by an intimate partner.39Petrosky E, Blair JM, Betz CJ, et al. Racial and ethnic differences in homicides of adult women and the role of intimate partner violence–United States, 2003-2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2017;66(28):741–746. In more than half of these deaths, a firearm is involved.40Ibid. Robust research documents the structural disadvantages in non-white neighborhoods,41Knopov A, Rothman EF, Cronin SW, et al. The role of racial residential segregation in Black-white disparities in firearm homicide at the state level in the United States, 1991-2015. Journal of the National Medical Association. 2019;110(1):62-75. Note that the researchers controlled for levels of poverty, home ownership, labor force participation, incarceration, educational attainment, and single-parent households among the Black population in each state and found racial residential segregation was positively associated with the Black firearm homicide rate. which lack trust in the criminal justice system, making them less likely to report abuse,42Whitfield CT. It’s Complicated: Why some Black women refuse to call the police when their Black male partners threaten their lives. The Grio. April 10, 2019. and are hurt by inadequately resourced social support such as schools, housing, and healthcare.43McCall PL, Land KC, Parker KF. An empirical assessment of what we know about structural covariates of homicide rates: a return to a classic 20 years later. Homicide Studies. 2010;14(3) 219-243. West CM. Battered, Black, and blue: an overview of violence in the lives of Black women. Women & Therapy. 2014;25(3-4):1-211. Smedley BD, Stith AY, Nelson AR, eds. Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. Institute of Medicine, Committee on Understanding and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. Washingtron, DC: National Academies Press; 2003. These disparities can drive community violence, which is linked with higher rates of IPV44Pinchevsky GM, Wright EM. The impact of neighborhoods on intimate partner violence and victimization. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2012;13(2):112-132. in large part because witnessing violence of any kind as a child can normalize abuse and increase the chances that the child experiences or inflicts violence in their adolescent and adult relationships.45Firearms are used in the majority of IPV homicides of adolescents, and the majority of victims are girls. Adhia A, Kernic MA, Hemenway D, Vavilala MS, Rivara FP. Intimate partner homicide of adolescents. JAMA Pediatrics. 2019;173(6):571-577. Niolon PH, Kearns M, Dills et al. Preventing intimate partner violence across the lifespan: a technical package of programs, policies, and practices. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. 2017.
RACE/ ETHNICITY, HOMICIDES, AND IPV
|Black Women||American Indian/Alaska Native Women||Hispanic Women||White Women|
|U.S Female Population (%)||12.4%||0.8%||13.2%||68.3%|
|Females Experiencing IPV in Their Lifetime (%)||44%||46%||37%||35%|
|Female Homicide Rate (Per 100,000)||4.4||4.3||1.8||1.5|
Black women are twice as likely to be fatally shot by an intimate partner compared to white women.
Compared to non-Hispanic white women, Black women are twice as likely to be fatally shot by an intimate partner,49Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), 2013-2017. Analysis includes homicides involving an intimate partner and a firearm and compares the crude death rates for Black women (0.65 per 100,000) versus white women (0.35 per 100,000) (all ages included; Hispanic and non-Hispanic women included). While the FBI SHR does not include data from the state of Florida for the years 2013 to 2017, Everytown for Gun Safety obtained data directly from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and included the reported homicides in the analysis. Whereas SHR includes both current and former spouses in its relationship designations, FDLE does not include former spouses. As a result, Florida’s intimate partner violence data includes only current spouses. and younger Black women—between the ages of 18 and 34—are at the greatest risk: They are nearly three times more likely to be shot and killed by an intimate partner than are white women in the same age group.50Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), 2013-2017. While the FBI SHR does not include data from the state of Florida for the years 2013 to 2017, Everytown for Gun Safety obtained data directly from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and included the reported homicides in the analysis. Analysis includes homicides involving an intimate partner and a firearm and compares the crude death rates for Black women ages 18-34 (1.43 per 100,000) versus white women ages 18-34 (0.49 per 100,000) (Hispanic and non-Hispanic women included).
The history of trauma, discrimination, and dispossession inflicted upon indigenous communities by federal policies continues to influence their health and well-being today, including leading to extremely high rates of IPV.51The high rates of IPV among indigenous women in the US is also the result of a chronic shortage of preventive health and social services in Tribal lands and Alaska Native villages. Duran B, Oetzel J, Parker T, Malcoe LH, Lucero J, Jiang Y. Intimate partner violence and alcohol, drug, and mental disorders among American Indian women from Southwest Tribes in primary care. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research. Colorado School of Public Health. Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health. Bachman R, Zaykowski H, Kallmyer R, Poteyeva M, Lanier C. Violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women and the criminal justice response: what is known. Unpublished grant report to the US Department of Justice. August 2008. Sarche M, Spicer P. Poverty and health disparities for American Indian and Alaska Native children: current knowledge and future prospects. Annals of the New York Academy of Science. 2008;1136:126-136. More than half of American Indian/Alaska Native women have experienced physical violence by intimate partners in their lifetime, a rate nearly twice as high as that among non-Hispanic white women.52Almost half of American Indian and Alaska Native women have also been stalked, and two-thirds have been victims of psychological aggression by intimate partners. Rosay AB. Violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women and men. US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. June 1, 2016. While the disproportionate rate of gender violence impacting Native communities is clear, the national epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is not well-recorded.53Echo-Hawk A, Lucchesi A. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Urban Indian Health Institute. November 14, 2018. https://bit.ly/2qEfNrX. This means violent crimes against women in Tribal lands and Alaska Native villages are not consistently reflected in national crime statistics.54This is partly due to Tribal law enforcement’s lack of access to federal crime reporting databases. Currently, only 47 out of the 573 federally recognized Tribes have been enrolled in the Justice Department’s Tribal Access Program, which provides Tribes the ability to access and exchange data with the national crime information databases for both civil and criminal purposes. US Department of Justice. Department of Justice announces expansion of program to enhance Tribal access to national crime information databases. August 2, 2018. https://bit.ly/2XMc2QO
One in three Hispanic women have experienced IPV in their lifetime.
Approximately one in three Hispanic women have experienced IPV in their lifetime.55Breiding MJ, Chen J, Black MC. Intimate partner violence in the United States—2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2014. Fear of deportation, language barriers, and cultural stigma discourage many Hispanic victims from reporting abuse, seeking help, or filing for a protective order.56Messing JT, Vega S, Durfee A. Protection order use among Latina survivors of intimate partner violence. Feminist Criminology. 2017;12(3):199-223. Sabina C, Cuevas CA, Lannen E. The likelihood of Latino women to seek help in response to interpersonal victimization: an examination of individual, interpersonal and sociocultural influences. Psychosocial Intervention. 2014;23(2):95-103. For these reasons, this statistic is likely to be an undercount.57Alvarez C, Fedock G. Addressing intimate partner violence with Latina women: a call for research. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2018;19(4):488–493. While Hispanic victims of violence have long been hindered in accessing support for abuse, recent federal policies—including the removal of immigrants by ICE officers showing up in schools and at hearings for protective orders—have heightened the climate of fear to record levels.58Tahirih Justice Center, et al. May 2019 Findings: Immigrant Survivors Fear Reporting Violence June 2019, available at https://bit.ly/2IWgp5U (national survey finding that three out of four advocates and attorneys reported that immigrant survivors have concerns about going to court for a matter related to the abuser/offender, and over 76 percent reported that immigrant survivors have concerns about contacting the police).
Segments of the LGBTQ59LGBTQ is an acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer” and is often used as an umbrella term to describe the community. population experience elevated rates of IPV, yet a lack of data limits our understanding of the full scope of gun-related IPV in this community.
Research on intimate partner homicides involving firearms among LGBTQ people is limited due to lack of sexual orientation and gender identity data recorded on death records.60Haas AP, Lane A, on behalf of the Working Group for Postmortem Identification of sexual orientation and gender identity. Collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data in suicide and other violent deaths: a step towards identifying and addressing LGBT mortality disparities. LGBT Health. 2015;2(1):84-87. However, the growing body of research on this topic suggests that lesbian women, bisexual women and men, and transgender individuals report the highest rates of lifetime IPV compared to their heterosexual and cisgender61The term “cisgender” is used to describe a non-transgender person, or someone whose gender identity aligns with the gender assigned to them at birth. counterparts.62Lifetime rates of IPV for women are 61.1 percent for bisexual women, 43.8 percent for lesbian women, and 35.0 percent for heterosexual women. Lifetime rates of IPV for men are 26 percent for gay men, 37.3 percent for bisexual men, and 29 percent for heterosexual men. According to a national survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 54 percent of transgender adults have experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Walters ML, Chen J, Breiding MJ. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 findings on victimization by sexual orientation. https://bit.ly/2nRCTfb. January 2013. James SE, Herman JL, Rankin S, Keisling M, Mottet L, Anafi M. The report of the 2015 US Transgender Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality. https://bit.ly/2BXZcma. December 2016. In a recent report on LGBTQ adults and gun violence, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law identified this as a significant research gap.63Conron KJ, Goldberg SK, Flores AR, Luhur W, Tashman W, Romero AP. Gun violence and LGBT adults: findings from the General Social Survey and the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey. The Williams Institute ,%UCLA School of Law. https://bit.ly/2SHcgoq. November 2018.
People with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by abuse, but there is alarmingly little research on the intersection of firearms and IPV for this population.
People with disabilities are particularly susceptible to IPV due to a variety of factors, including physical dependence on an abuser, perceived vulnerability by abusers, and higher levels of social isolation.64Powers LE, Hughes RB, Lund EM, Wambach M. Interpersonal violence and women with disabilities: a research update. National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women, Applied Research Forum. September 2009. https://bit.ly/2VaXQ2D. Breiding MJ, Armour BS. The association between disability and intimate partner violence in the United States. Annals of Epidemiology. 2015;25(6):455-457. Smith DL. Disability, gender and intimate partner violence: relationships from the behavioral risk factor surveillance system. Sex Disabil. 2008;26:15–28. It is undisputed that this group is more likely to be victims of violent crime and IPV compared to people without disabilities,65Harrell E. United States. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Crime against persons with disabilities, 2009-2015–Statistical Tables. https://bit.ly/2J4mT0F. July 2017. Breiding MJ, Armour BS. The association between disability and intimate partner violence in the United States. Annals of Epidemiology. 2015;25(6):455-457. yet what is known likely accounts for just a fraction of the true impact.66Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual violence and intimate partner violence among people with disabilities. October 24, 2018. https://bit.ly/2SynqeY. According to the CDC, prevalence data on domestic and sexual violence against individuals with disabilities “likely underestimate the true burden of victimization, and exclude adults living in institutions such as prisons, group homes, and nursing homes” (settings with a high proportion of persons with disabilities). Women with disabilities are significantly more likely to experience IPV, including psychological aggression and stalking by an intimate partner, than women without disabilities67Breiding MJ, Armour BS. The association between disability and intimate partner violence in the United States. Annals of Epidemiology. 2015;25(6):455-457.—behaviors that have been linked to increased trauma among victims when abusers have access to firearms.68Sullivan TP, Weiss NH. Is firearm threat in intimate relationships associated with posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among women? Violence and Gender. 2017;4(2):31-36.
When Giovanna first met the man who would one day hold a gun to her head, he seemed perfect. He was charming, friendly, and respected in the community. Slowly, he isolated her from her loved ones and began controlling her every move. She was living with constant abuse. He started using a gun to intimidate her. He would threaten to shoot himself or her, sometimes in front of her two children. Giovanna requested a protective order, and the judge granted it—but allowed her abuser to keep his weapons, leaving her and her children vulnerable.
This narrative was provided by Giovanna Rodriguez, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network.
Common-sense laws that keep guns out of the hands of abusive partners reduce gun violence and IPV.69Zeoli AM, McCourt A, Buggs S, Frattaroli S, Lilley D, Webster DW. Analysis of the strength of legal firearms restrictions for perpetrators of domestic violence and their associations with intimate partner homicide. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2018;187(11):2365-2371. Díez C, Kurland RP, Rothman EF, et al. State intimate partner violence-related firearm laws and intimate partner homicide rates in the United States, 1991 to 2015. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017;167(8):536-543. Zeoli AM, Webster DW. Effects of domestic violence policies, alcohol taxes and police staffing levels on intimate partner homicide in large US cities. Injury Prevention. 2010;16(2):90-95. However, existing loopholes in federal and state law leave guns in the hands of abusive partners and stalkers, often with deadly results. This nation’s weak gun laws fail many women across the US each year. There are clear policies that members of Congress and state lawmakers can enact now to save lives. These include:
- Strengthening state laws prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing guns and requiring abusers to relinquish guns they already have.
- Focusing on implementation and enforcement of existing state firearm relinquishment laws by state and local courts and law enforcement agencies.
- Strengthening the federal background check system to keep guns out of dangerous hands by closing deadly loopholes and addressing deficiencies including:
– The boyfriend loophole;
– The Charleston loophole;
– The unlicensed sale loophole; and
– Improving domestic violence records.
- Requiring dealers to notify state or local law enforcement when a domestic abuser or convicted stalker attempts to buy a gun and fails a background check.
- Funding comprehensive research on the nexus of guns and intimate partner violence.
States should adopt or strengthen laws prohibiting abusive partners from possessing guns and require these abusers to relinquish their guns once they become prohibited from having them.
Over the past six years, survivors of IPV and volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have successfully advocated in 29 states and Washington, DC, to pass 51 new laws that help keep guns away from abusive partners. Despite this progress, many states do not prohibit abusers subject to domestic violence restraining orders or abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from possessing firearms.70Four states do not prohibit abusers subject to final domestic violence restraining orders: IN, NE, SD, and VT. Five states do not prohibit abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes: FL, NC, NH, VA, and WI. Fifteen states do not have either prohibitor: AK, AR, AZ, GA, ID, KY, MI, MO, MS, MT, ND, OH, OK, SC, and WY.
Even if a domestic abuser is barred by federal law from owning a gun, without similar state law prohibitions, state or local prosecutors do not have jurisdiction to enforce federal laws, making it less likely that abusers are prosecuted for violating the law.71International Association of Chiefs of Police. Firearms policy position statement. https://bit.ly/2SIGF5D. 2018. For example, in 2018, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released a position paper announcing its support for “the adoption of common sense policies that will assist in reducing gun violence,” including an end to the gun-show loophole, establishing a firearms offender registry, and greater federal resources to aid state and local police officers in firearms enforcement programs. It is therefore critical for states to adopt these laws, which are proven to be effective. States that prohibit abusers subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns have seen a 13 percent reduction in intimate partner firearm homicide rates.72Zeoli AM, McCourt A, Buggs S, Frattaroli S, Lilley D, Webster DW. Analysis of the strength of legal firearms restrictions for perpetrators of domestic violence and their associations with intimate partner homicide. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2018;187(11):2365-2371. The impact is even greater at a local level: Cities in states that prohibit firearm possession by abusers subject to domestic violence restraining orders have seen a 25 percent reduction in intimate partner firearm homicide rates.73Zeoli AM, Webster DW. Effects of domestic violence policies, alcohol taxes and police staffing levels on intimate partner homicide in large US cities. Injury Prevention. 2010;16(2):90-95.
Congress and the states should also ensure that abusive partners actually relinquish their firearms when they become prohibited from possessing them.74Currently, 20 states (CA, CO, CT, HI, IA, IL, LA, MA, MD, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, TN, WA, and WI) and Washington, DC, require abusers subject to final domestic violence restraining orders to turn in their guns, and 16 states (CA, CO, CT, HI, IA, IL, LA, MA, MD, MN, NV, NJ, NY, PA, RI, and TN) and Washington, DC, require convicted domestic violence misdemeanants to do so. The results in states that have enacted laws that encourage or require abusers subject to domestic violence restraining orders to relinquish their firearms speak for themselves: There was a 14-16 percent lower intimate partner firearm homicide rate.75Díez C, Kurland RP, Rothman EF, et al. State intimate partner violence-related firearm laws and intimate partner homicide rates in the United States, 1991 to 2015. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017;167(8):536-543. Zeoli AM, McCourt A, Buggs S, Frattaroli S, Lilley D, Webster DW. Analysis of the strength of legal firearms restrictions for perpetrators of domestic violence and their associations with intimate partner homicide. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2018;187(11):2365-2371.
State and local courts and law enforcement agencies should focus on implementation and enforcement of laws that require abusive partners to relinquish their guns.
Despite the above evidence of the effectiveness of laws requiring abusers to relinquish their firearms, many states have not fully implemented these laws, leaving survivors at risk. Full application and enforcement of firearm relinquishment laws requires all parts of the justice system to contribute:
- State and local leaders should facilitate law enforcement training about relinquishment laws and how to safely enforce them.
- Court administrators should ensure that all judges receive training about firearm prohibition and relinquishment laws and that court forms provide survivors and abusers with information about their rights and obligations.
- Judges should order firearm relinquishment in all cases required by state law, ensure that abusers understand the requirement to relinquish firearms, and monitor compliance with firearm relinquishment orders.
- State executives such as state attorneys general and governors’ offices should review court and law enforcement practices and implementation data to verify that prohibited abusers have relinquished their firearms.
- Law enforcement agencies should develop a protocol for storage of firearms and should regularly communicate compliance and non-compliance by respondents to the courts and prosecutors.
- District attorneys should fully prosecute abusers found to be non-compliant or in unlawful possession of firearms.
Jurisdictions that have fully implemented these laws have seen immediate safety improvements. For example, in King County, Washington, a regional domestic violence firearms enforcement unit staffed by law enforcement, prosecutors, and members of the City Attorney’s Office works to ensure that defendants subject to a domestic violence protective order relinquish their firearms. The result: The team more than quadrupled the number of firearms recovered in domestic violence cases in the region in 2018, as compared to 2016.76United States Government Accountability Office. Report to the Acting Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives. Gun control: analyzing available data could help improve background checks involving domestic violence records. https://bit.ly/2CkTs94.
Jurisdictions without state-based firearm prohibition and relinquishment laws have also provided leadership in protecting survivors of domestic violence.77In Dallas County, Texas, a gun surrender program pioneered by Judge Roberto Cañas created a partnership between the courts and law enforcement, enabling domestic violence offenders to safely surrender firearms to law enforcement officers when they became prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. Choi L, Elki R. Harasim M. Taking aim at family violence: a report on the Dallas County Gun Surrender Program. Spring 2017. Local law enforcement officers in these jurisdictions should report cases where domestic abusers are found in possession of a firearm to federal prosecutors’ offices for prosecution on unlawful firearms possession charges—a policy supported by the US Department of Justice.78Ibid.
Congress and state legislatures should strengthen the background check system by closing deadly loopholes and improving records that will keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories, including domestic abusers.
Congress should close the boyfriend and stalking loopholes in the federal gun prohibition laws.
Current federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence crimes and abusers under restraining orders from possessing guns only if the abuser has been married to, lives with, or has a child in common with the victim. It does not cover abusive dating partners.7918 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), (9); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(32), (33). The law applies to people convicted of domestic violence crimes and abusers under restraining orders only if the abuser has been married to, lives with, or has a child in common with the victim. The law also covers children of abusers and of abusers’ intimate partners. The exclusion of abusive dating partners from firearms restrictions is especially outdated given the changing nature of relationships.80Couples are delaying marriage and the median age of first marriage for women has increased from 22 in 1990 to 28 in 2018. U.S. Census Bureau Estimated median age of first marriage by sex: 1890 to the present table. Nov 2018. https://bit.ly/2IWPaKO This gap in the law has become increasingly deadly: The share of homicides committed by dating partners has been increasing for three decades,81Cooper AD, Smith EL. Homicide trends in the United States, 1980-2008. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. November 16, 2011. and now women are as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses.82Ibid. Additionally, current federal law does not prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor stalking crimes from having guns.83Stalking is typically defined as repeatedly following, harassing, or cyberstalking another person. See, e.g., Fla. Stat. § 784.048. A number of states have addressed this federal loophole through policies that prohibit abusive dating partners and convicted stalkers from possessing guns.84Twenty states (CA, CT, DE, HI, IL, IN, KS, MA, ME, MD, MN, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA, and WV) and Washington, DC, have adopted laws prohibiting abusive dating partners convicted of domestic violence crimes from possessing guns. Twenty-one states (CA, CT, DE, HI, IL, LA, MA, MD, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, TX, WA, WI, and WV) and DC prohibit dating partners under domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms. And 20 states (AZ, CA, CO, DE, HI, IL, IN, MA, MN, MD, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, SC, TX, VT, and WI) and DC have prohibited all convicted stalkers from possessing firearms. Research shows that when states broadened their firearm prohibition laws beyond federal law to cover abusive dating partners, the states experienced a 16 percent reduction in intimate partner firearm homicide rates.85The study also found the law to be associated with a 13 percent reduction in overall intimate partner homicide rates. Zeoli AM, McCourt A, Buggs S, Frattaroli S, Lilley D, Webster DW. Analysis of the strength of legal firearms restrictions for perpetrators of domestic violence and their associations with intimate partner homicide. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2018;187(11):2365-2371.
Congress and state legislatures should close the Charleston loophole that puts victims of IPV at heightened risk.
Federal law requires that licensed gun dealers run background checks on all potential gun buyers. But due to a National Rifle Association–backed provision added to the 1993 Brady Bill, the law allows sales to proceed by default after three business days—even in the absence of confirmation that the buyer is legally allowed to have guns.86This loophole is the one through which the shooter at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, obtained the firearm he used in the shooting on June 17, 2015. The shooter, who was prohibited from possessing firearms due to an earlier drug arrest, was able to purchase the gun he used in the shooting because the default proceed period had elapsed, and the dealer made the sale even though the background check was not complete. From 2006 to 2015, 30 percent of gun sale denials by licensed dealers to buyers convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse took longer than three business days.87United States Government Accountability Office. Report to the Acting Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives. Gun control: analyzing available data could help improve background checks involving domestic violence records. https://bit.ly/2CkTs94. That means licensed dealers were legally authorized under federal law to transfer guns to 18,000 people who were prohibited domestic violence misdemeanants simply because their background checks took longer than three days.88Ibid. In 2017 alone, licensed dealers sold guns to 1,120 prohibited domestic abusers because a federal background check could not be completed within three business days. United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Criminal Justice Information Services Division. National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) operations report. https://bit.ly/2Hu9H7j. 2017. This is likely to be an undercount since it is based on solely on background checks conducted by the FBI and does not include data from Point of Contact states that conduct their own background checks. Congress and state legislatures should prohibit a firearm transfer until the results of a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check indicate that the buyer is not prohibited from possessing guns.89Nineteen states and Washington, DC, have laws that give authorities longer than three business days to complete a background check on potential gun buyers: CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, IL, MA, MD, MN, NC, NJ, NY, PA, RI, TN, UT, WA, and WI.
States should improve the quality of domestic violence records in the background check system.
Convicted domestic abusers and subjects of domestic violence restraining orders are prohibited from having guns under federal law, but a Government Accountability Office report indicates that some court records for these abusers are missing from the background check system, and others are not identifiable as prohibiting.90United States Government Accountability Office. Report to the Acting Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives. Gun control: analyzing available data could help improve background checks involving domestic violence records. https://bit.ly/2CkTs94. July 2016. When a prohibited abuser tries to buy a gun and undergoes a NICS check, the sale will be stopped only if their record is in the system and contains sufficient information to identify it as prohibiting. States need to ensure that all domestic violence criminal records and domestic violence restraining orders are entered into the NICS database in a timely manner.91Misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) records may be flagged through the Identification for Firearm Sales program, and domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) records may be flagged with a Brady indicator or the point-of-contact (POC) code 07. It is also important for states to place special flags on these records when submitting them to the system to indicate that they prohibit a person from possessing firearms under federal law. If a record is flagged as prohibiting and the offender attempts to buy a gun, the background check operator will see the flag and will instantly know that the sale should be denied, reducing the possibility of selling to a prohibited domestic abuser due to the Charleston loophole.
Congress and state legislatures should ensure that prohibited domestic abusers and stalkers cannot evade background checks by purchasing guns from unlicensed, private sellers.
Since the introduction of the NICS in 1998, nearly 400,000 firearm sales to domestic abusers have been blocked. Every year, one in nine prohibited purchasers denied by a background check is a domestic abuser.92United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Publications & products: background checks for firearm transfers. https://bit.ly/2F4vMYw. Data on federal- and state-level denials were obtained from the BJS reports for the years 1999-2010 and 2012-2015. Local-level denials were available and included only for the years 2012 and 2014-2015 from the BJS reports. Data for the years 2011 and 2016-2017 were obtained by Everytown for Gun Safety from the FBI directly. Though the majority of the transactions and denials reported by the FBI and BJS are associated with a firearm sale or transfer, a small number may be for concealed-carry permits and other reasons not related to a sale or transfer. Totals include both those who are prohibited due to a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) conviction and those who are denied due to restraining or protection orders for domestic violence. However, federal law requires background checks only for sales by licensed dealers. While 21 states and Washington, DC, go further and require background checks on all handgun sales,93CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IA, IL, MA, MD, MI, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, and WA. Sixteen of these states requires background checks on all firearm sales. domestic abusers and convicted stalkers can circumvent the system in states that do not require checks for private sales by purchasing firearms from private sellers online or at a gun show.94Ten states require a point-of-sale check for sales by unlicensed handgun sellers (CA, CO, DE, NM, NV, NC, OR, PA, VT, and WA), seven states require a background check on those sales pursuant to a purchase permit (HI, IA, IL, MA, MI, NE, and RI), and four states (CT, MD, NJ, and NY) and Washington, DC, require a background check at both occasions.
Congress and state legislatures should require notification when a domestic abuser or convicted stalker attempts to buy a gun and fails a background check.
Current federal law does not require federal authorities to notify state or local authorities when a prohibited person attempts to purchase a firearm and fails the background check—even though the attempted purchase is a crime. Nine states have laws requiring such notification.95CA, CO, HI, IL, LA, OR, TN (DV orders and mental health), UT, and WA. Legislatures should pass laws requiring the entities that run background checks to notify law enforcement when a person fails a background check. Federal and state law enforcement agencies and prosecutors should also dedicate resources to investigate and prosecute abusers who falsely state that they are not prohibited from possessing firearms when they attempt to purchase guns.
Congress and states should support more comprehensive research on intimate partner gun violence.
Since 1996, a budget restriction known as the Dickey Amendment has dramatically curtailed the ability of the CDC to conduct firearms research and has prevented the agency from spending funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” Subsequently, Congress also placed a similar funding prohibition on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), having a profoundly chilling effect on federal efforts to develop research on all aspects of gun violence.96Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Public Law 112-74 (2011). In 2013, President Barack Obama issued an executive order calling for the NIH to support research on firearm violence, which resulted in increased funding in the three years to follow. The funding program has since lapsed. Research and data are integral to prevention. Congress should provide funding to researchers to better our understanding of all aspects of guns and IPV, including fatal and non-fatal gun use in IPV, the vulnerable communities most impacted by it, and the policies and programs that work best to address this issue. States can support research by dedicating funding to violence prevention centers aimed at studying these issues, such as those at the University of California, Davis, and Rutgers University.97University of California, Davis Health. UC firearm prevention research center launched at UC Davis. UC Davis Health Newsroom. July 24, 2017. https://bit.ly/2BNMOrQ. Stainton L. New Jersey looks to California for gun violence research model. NJ Spotlight. April 3, 2018. https://bit.ly/2BYbjmn. Federal and state governments should also support the improvement and expansion of data collection and reporting systems to enable further research on IPV and guns.
Gun violence and IPV are deeply interconnected, with devastating impacts on not only individual victims, but also their families, communities, and the nation. Research has clearly shown that guns can turn IPV deadly. Abusers with access to a gun are five times more likely to kill their female victims. But because of loopholes in federal and state laws and failures to implement and enforce them, many women live in states where current laws do little to curb the uniquely lethal problem of guns and violence against women in the US. The evidence is clear: Laws keeping guns out of the hands of abusers are associated with lower rates of intimate partner homicides. Congress and state legislatures should pass comprehensive gun safety laws to disarm abusive partners and save lives. Similarly, steps should be taken by state and local courts and law enforcement agencies to implement existing laws. Finally, it is important to fund comprehensive research on the nexus of IPV and gun violence to support the development of solutions that address their disproportionate experiences of abuse.
We are grateful to the following experts for their comments and valuable feedback that contributed to making this report accurate, comprehensive, and precise:
Julie Bancroft, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Amy Barasch, Her Justice
Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing
Cailin Crockett, independent consultant
Lois Fasnacht, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
David Keck, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms
Sara Krall, End Abuse Wisconsin
TK Logan, PhD, University of Kentucky Department of Behavioral Science
Tasha Menaker, PhD, Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence
Emily Rothman, ScD, Boston University School of Public Health
Juanito Vargas, Safe Horizon
April Zeoli, PhD, Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice
Support for those in crisis
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, available 24/7, for confidential assistance from a trained advocate. You can also find more resources on legal assistance in English and Spanish at WomensLaw.org. For additional resources on emotional, medical, financial, and legal consequences of gun violence for individuals and communities, please visit Everytown’s Resources page.
Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.