Domestic violence is a global issue; however, in the United States, gun rights are often championed over the rights of those at risk for violence, creating and perpetuating a culture where second amendment rights are prioritized over human rights. Abusive partners who own guns are more likely to commit fatal acts of domestic violence, and even if someone has armed themselves as protection from their abuser, it is likely for that gun to be discovered by their abuser and used against them. One study shows that victims of domestic violence are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a gun. Overall, domestic violence causes over 2,000 deaths per year, 70% of which are women.
The rate of fatal domestic abuse is strongly correlated with state-specific gun laws. Due to the lack of restrictive gun laws within many states, the prevalence of domestic violence-related fatalities will continue, potentially even growing in number. New York has relatively strict laws regarding firearms compared to other states; as a result, New York reported 4.2 gun deaths per capita in 2013, the third-fewest number of gun-related deaths nationwide. There are currently seven states that have passed laws prohibiting those who have been convicted of domestic violence from obtaining firearms. Three states – New Jersey, North Dakota, and Rhode Island – have implemented even more restrictive laws that legally force those who are convicted of domestic violence to turn their guns over to the police. If all 50 states created and enforced gun laws with a goal of protecting people from domestic violence, the rate of deaths occurring as a result of gun violence would decrease.
Incidents of mass fatalities as a result of domestic violence have become common enough for the need to create a new category of mass shootings. Data collected by the Huffington Post demonstrated that in 57% of domestic violence shootings, at least four people are killed at the scene of the crime. In the cases that were analyzed, the attacker went after a family member or romantic partner. It has become tragically common for children present during fatal acts of domestic violence to also become victims.
Domestic violence advocates commonly critique the definition of mass shootings since it does not take into consideration the fatal domestic violence epidemic. 50 American women are shot and killed by a former or current partner each month. Even though about one in ten mass-shooting injuries involved domestic violence, they are described as being more deadly than other attacks. Perpetrators of mass shootings are often found to have records of domestic violence and abusing women.
Gun control is a feminist issue: strengthening gun laws will greatly reduce the number of deadly acts of domestic violence in the U.S. Acts of domestic violence are not isolated from other forms of violence, and we must be serious about gun control if we want to change our country’s culture of violence.