In Minnesota, where I live, the latest Femicide report shows this:Per capita, Nevada had 2.62 women killed per 100,000 people in 2010, the VPC report said. That’s more than double the national rate of 1.22 per 100,000 people. The next closest state was South Carolina at 1.94.Sue Meuschke, executive director of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence, attributed the high rate to several reasons, including the economy and Nevada’s gun culture.Because of the poor economy, women in dangerous domestic situations are waiting longer before they leave, Meuschke said. It’s because they have less options for money, housing and other basic resources.Guns are also a problem, Meuschke said.“There is a culture that says that you should possess a firearm,” Meuschke said. “And, unfortunately, mixing firearms and domestic violence is a recipe for murder.”
Access to Firearms: In 2011, 12 of 23 (52%) intimate partner femicides were committed with firearms. While the percentage of femicides using firearms fluctuates year to year, murder with firearms is the most frequent weapon of choice, supporting the studies showing that possession of firearms can increase the risk of lethality.
Federal law prohibits domestic abusers from being able to purchase guns. Let's take a look at this report from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. First this background statement from the linked report:In 11 of the 12 gunshot cases, the perpetrator then killed himself. 5 of the 6 family members, friends, and interveners were killed by gunshot.
So now, something about the laws. From the report:
But, of course, there are always limitations or exceptions. Here are some, from the report:Federal law prohibits purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition by persons who have been convicted in any court of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” and/or who are subject to certain domestic violence protective orders.8Federal law defines a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” as an offense that is a federal, state or tribal law misdemeanor and has the use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon as an element.9 In addition, the offender must:be a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim;be a current or former cohabitant with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; or be similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.10
These federal prohibitions have significant limitations. First, domestic violence affects persons in relationships that fall outside the protections of federal law. For example, dating partners are not within the federal prohibitions unless the partners are/were cohabitating as spouses and/or have a child in common. The risk of domestic violence being committed by a dating partner is well-documented. Between 1990 and 2005, individuals killed by current dating partners made up almost half of all spouse and current dating partner homicides.13 In a recent study of applicants for domestic violence restraining orders in Los Angeles, the most common relationship between the victim and abuser was a dating relationship, and applications for protective orders were more likely to mention firearms when the parties had not lived together and were not married.14 Many states have addressed this gap in federal law by enacting laws that expand the relationships subject to firearm purchaser prohibitions for domestic abusers.But state laws can be confusing and sometimes in conflict with federal law in these cases. I just had a conversation with my local Sheriff while attending a fund raiser for a local shelter for abused women. He was frustrated that he could not deny a permit to acquire (required in Minnesota for purchases of handguns and assault weapons) because of a provision in Minnesota law that differs from federal law. Here is the Minnesota law referring to domestic abuse charges and firearms. He contacted someone at NICS and found that because Minnesota law allows for returning guns to a domestic abuser after three years, that means he can't deny this permit. It also has to do with language regarding whether someone only threatened violence or actually used violence against the woman or abused person. In a follow-up conversation with him, he was still frustrated and had been studying both the state and the federal laws and is having trouble figuring out the very complicated language. These laws are written sometimes by the very people who have a vested interest in their provisions, such as the NRA. There is no reason that a domestic abuser should get his guns back whether he only threatened a woman or actually used violence, in which case he loses guns and his rights for life. Raise your hand if you would feel safe knowing that someone who threatened you with violence was now able to purchase guns. And remember, this is only from federally licensed firearms dealers. We all know that in most states, anyone can purchase guns from private sellers without a background check.
We can hope that programs designed to deal with domestic abuse will make a difference. As someone who sits on the board of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, I am proud to know that the program is training people all over the world to deal better with domestic abuse. The Duluth model is now famous for how law enforcement deals with domestic abusers. From the web site about what the Duluth Model does:
The immediate response to reported abuse has saved lives. The coordinated community response is extremely important to help abused women deal with abuse right away and get the system in place for dealing with the abuser and getting help for the abused. I respect the local law enforcement officers who respond to domestic abuse cases. Their lives are at risk every time they walk into a domestic situation. Sometimes they are injured or even killed if the abuser has a weapon. From the linked article:Has taken the blame off the victim and placed the accountability for abuse on the offender.Has shared policies and procedures for holding offenders accountable and keeping victims safe across all agencies in the criminal and civil justice systems from 911 to the courts.Prioritizes the voices and experiences of women who experience battering in the creation of those policies and procedures.Believes that battering is a pattern of actions used to intentionally control or dominate an intimate partner and actively works to change societal conditions that support men’s use of tactics of power and control over women.Offers change opportunities for offenders through court-ordered educational groups for batterers.Has ongoing discussions between criminal and civil justice agencies, community members and victims to close gaps and improve the community’s response to battering.
That is 100 too many officers killed in domestic cases. Officers are trained to deal with domestic cases but when they step into the middle of an incident where someone has a weapon, it becomes immediately unpredictable and dangerous.According to “Police Chief” the magazine, an officer is injured in one out of every three domestic violence related calls.DeWanna Hamlin of Family Services in Winston-Salem thinks domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous officers respond to because of the unperceived dangers.“I think it is the unknown. Not knowing what to expect, not knowing what weapons are going to be involved, and not knowing who is behind those closed doors,” said Hamlin.Recent Federal Statistics show since 1996, roughly 100 officers in the United States were killed responding to domestic violence related calls. Hundreds more were injured.“When the abuser feels like he or she is losing power or control over the situation that is generally when see more serious domestic violence or explosion so to speak,” said Hamlin.Sadly, Hamlin and other domestic violence experts believe most of the deaths related to domestic violence could be prevented if people better understood the warning signs and were willing to report it.”Even when there is not a history of involvement with law enforcement, generally the assault we hear about is not the first time domestic violence has happened,” said Hamlin.
The bottom line is that domestic abusers should not have easy access to guns. Their intentions are not good ones. Almost every day there is a story somewhere in the country of a man ( usually a man) who shoots a woman in a domestic abuse case. Often he also shoots himself. We are better than this. Until we start using common sense regarding our nation's and state's gun laws, we will continue to see domestic murders. There is absolutely no reason why our elected leaders should be allowed to get away with avoiding this issue. Lives depend upon their actions. We need to demand a plan.