One year ago, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we worked with our partners to launch Disarm Domestic Violence — a website designed to demystify state laws around domestic violence protective order firearm removal. Since the site’s launch, we have heard numerous stories about people using Disarm Domestic Violence as a resource. We are pleased that the website has been a source of helpful information, but we know the intersection of guns and domestic violence remains a problem. We know our work to disarm domestic abusers is far from complete.
Domestic violence perpetrated with firearms — like all firearm violence — disproportionately affects Americans. One study showed that nearly 92% of all women killed by guns in high-income countries were American women. Nearly half of all women murdered in the United States are killed by a current or former intimate partner, and more than half of these intimate partner homicides are by firearm. In 2017, nearly 2,000 women were murdered by men and 92 percent of those women knew the man that murdered them.
Though the gun lobby often calls these deaths unavoidable or engages in victim-blaming when a woman is killed by an intimate partner with a gun, the research on guns and domestic violence is clear. Despite the gun lobby’s insistence that guns in the home make women safer, data shows that women are more likely to be murdered by an abusive partner when a gun is present. In fact, removing guns from abusive situations can save lives. Policies that prohibit abusers from purchasing or possessing guns are effective at reducing intimate partner homicide.
Evidence shows that domestic violence protective orders that cover dating partners, ex parte (temporary) orders, and those that require firearm removal are associated with reductions in intimate partner homicide both by firearm and by other means.
Although laws that prohibit abusers from purchasing or possessing firearms are vital, state and federal laws still make it far too easy for abusers to keep the guns they already own. Once an abuser is prohibited from purchasing or possessing guns, it is critically important to ensure this prohibition is enforced. In short, to fully address the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence, we must strengthen domestic violence laws at both the state and federal levels and close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to keep their firearms once they are prohibited.
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, we will continue to support data-driven policies that disarm domestic abusers. We will continue to provide information to survivors, advocates, officers of the court, legislators, journalists covering this issue, and others through Disarm Domestic Violence. And we will continue to speak out — and encourage others to speak out — about the deadly intersection of guns and domestic violence. Lives depend on it.