Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Domestic abuse awareness

I recently attended a local film screening of Sin by Silence. The film was shown as part of the month of awareness about Domestic Abuse. The stories told by women who are incarcerated in a California prison were riveting and disturbing. These are women who killed their spouses/partners in domestic abuse cases. These are women who were abused by the men they killed and were desperate. That does not excuse their taking of another human life. But what came out of their desire to change the world of domestic abuse is positive. They got the attention of the California legislature after they formed a support group and began telling their stories and urging changes. As a result, the law changed in California so that the abuse incidents of the women can be entered into evidence in trials of cases where women kill their abusers. One of the women was released from prison as a result of her efforts to tell her story and review evidence from her original trial. We had a lively discussion after the film and learned some things from the professionals in the group. We still have work to do to make more people aware of the endemic domestic abuse in our country. One of the important things that came of the film discussion was that if women seek shelter and successfully get out of their abusive relationship, their lives can change for the better. They and their families will be healthier and they can avoid harm to themselves or others, in the case of the women in the film.

A new study of 2009 date regarding domestic violence released by the Violence Policy Center  is not really a surprise. The state of Nevada was the top state for rate of domestic deaths per 100,000 at 2.70. From the article:
Nationwide, 1,818 females were murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2009. Where weapon use could be determined, firearms were the most common weapon used by males to murder females (861 of 1,654 homicides or 52 percent). Of these, 69 percent (593 of 861) were committed with handguns. In cases where the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 93 percent of female victims (1,579 out of 1,693) were murdered by someone they knew. Of these, 63 percent (989 out of 1,579) were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers. Nearly 14 times as many females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers. In 88 percent of all incidents where the circumstances could be determined, the homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery.
The study itself goes into much more detail. For instance:
The U.S. Department of Justice has found that women are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime committed by intimate partners than men, especially when a weapon is involved. Moreover women are more likely to be  victimized at home than in any other place.
Firearms—especially handguns—were the most common weapon used by males to murder females in 2009. For homicides in which the weapon could be identified, 52 percent of female victims (861 out of 1,654) were killed with a gun. Of the females killed with a firearm, nearly two-thirds were murdered by male intimates. The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance (550 victims) was nearly five times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined (114 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 2009. In homicides where males used firearms to kill females, handguns were clearly the weapon of choice over rifles and shotguns. In 2009, 69 percent of female firearm homicide victims (593 out of 861) were killed with handguns.
The information contained in the study linked above is important and should be a call to do more. Instead, one state is taking domestic violence to a new low bar. Topeka, Kansas will not arrest or prosecute misdemeanor domestic abuse offenders any more for lack of funds. What the heck? Women's lives are at risk every day in this country from partner/husband domestic abuse. So when funds are scarce, are some lives expendable? Severe budget cuts can lead to unsustainable public health and safety concerns.

For this man, an assault rifle was the weapon of choice in a domestic abuse incident and he intended to kill- anyone who happened by, but in this case police officers. The man was not a hunter according to his family. Why did he need an assault rifle and high capacity magazines? Hunters tell me they need assault rifles for hunting which they don't, of course. They just want them for hunting. For police, responding to a domestic case is the one of the most dangerous things they do on the job. They are often outgunned by the people they confront, such as the man in this case whose actions were screaming for intervention. One wonders why the woman here did not do something sooner or the neighbors when they saw this sign posted in the yard:
....sign posted on the front porch warned trespassers "will be shot. Survivors will be shot again."
So, according to the family, the man flipped out. People flip out often and when they also have guns, bad things happen. Everyone was lucky that no one was injured or killed in this case. This could have become a terrible tragedy for so many people. It's time for people to realize that when someone as volatile and violent as this man has an assault rifle in his possession, it is likely not to end well. It's time to get out of the house. It's time to call family to try to intervene. It's time for a woman to seek shelter. It's time for law enforcement to be informed. Should this man have been able to keep those guns? Was he a prohibited purchaser? Too often, we shrug off these warning signs, assuming that people will not act. We shouldn't. And when guns are involved, the action can turn into tragedy. And sometimes families cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the truth:
"I don't really think he was shooting at the cops," Meeks said. "If he was out to shoot somebody, he could've turned and shot us. 
"He just flipped out, I think," Meeks said.
But he was shooting at the cops. Denial will get us nowhere in preventing domestic abuse. That is what the many programs available in communities all over the country are for. The Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs ( DAIP), founded in Duluth and whose model of dealing with domestic abuse and abusers is one of many. I hope that women will seek help when a domestic situation goes as wrong as the one above did.

Unfortunately, our mass media is filled with articles about domestic shootings every day in our country. This is a serious national public safety problem and it's a problem that is often swept under the carpet. Here is an article about a recent shooting of a woman in a domestic abuse case in Virginia.

Let's look at some facts and figures to end this post. " Approximately 700 American women are shot and killed by intimate partners each year. (Homicide trends in the U.S Intimate homicide and Homicides by relationships and weapon type. Washington D.C.: U.S Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics; 2002.)"  This is not just a problem in the U.S. but it is widely recognized that the U.S. has overall gun homicide rates much higher than other industrialized countries. This project, Disarm Domestic Violence, is an effort to call attention to the pervasive problem of international domestic violence. From the website of the organization:
Women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house. Usually the perpetrator is a spouse or partner, often with a prior record of domestic abuse. Gun violence can be part of the cycle of intimidation and aggression that many women experience from an intimate partner. For every woman killed or physically injured by firearms, many more are threatened. This is why IANSA has launched a campaign to demand policies which would keep women safe from gun violence.
Firearms kill more women in domestic abuse cases in the U.S. than in other countries. From the Violence Policy Center study, linked above:
A 2002 study from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that although the United States represented only 32 percent of the female population among 25 high-income countries, it accounted for 84 percent of all female firearm homicides. The study’s lead author, Dr. David Hemenway, concluded that “the difference in female homicide victimization rates between the U.S. and these other industrialized nations is very large and is closely tied to levels of gun ownership. The relationship cannot be explained by differences in urbanization or income inequality.”19
Common sense tells us that, given these facts, firearms in the home are a risk to women in the U.S. especially, but also in other countries. Making sure that domestic abusers do not have access to guns or to make sure that those guns are taken from them after a violent episode of abuse towards their partner/wife/girlfriend can and does save lives.


  1. How will you keep guns from abusers without also taking them away from everyone else? I have no objection to taking guns from abusers who have been convicted by due process. Is there something else that you want to do?

  2. "Making sure that domestic abusers do not have access to guns or to make sure that those guns are taken from them after a violent episode of abuse towards their partner/wife/girlfriend can and does save lives."

    Sending an abuse victim back into a household with her abuser is profoundly stupid. And the idea that she'll be safe, if we only get rid of the evil guns, is more so.