Would you trust a loved one with bullets in their drawer? Statistics on Gun Violence
The reality of our world can be horrifying; headlines of ongoing armed conflict, famine and mass displacement are being seen regularly on our newspapers, social media and television. The growing number of victims has created borderless problems and drawn global concern. But what can be more horrifying is when truth is discarded along with the necessary actions needed for change. In times like these when the media plays a crucial role in raising awareness and making change, it is important for it to be used in the right way, using the right words.
There is a misconception that weapons are used to protect, and that they only harm when used by the wrong people, and the saying by Robert A. Heinlein further supports this belief; “There are no dangerous weapons. There are only dangerous men”. This in itself is a dangerous weapon — a wrong claim that overlooks the danger of weapons and the million innocent people that have and are still falling victim to guns, further exposing the terrible impact of gun violence on modern society.
While the issue of gun violence in America should be discussed at length, keeping a specific focus on intimate partner violence involving the use of a gun is crucial. Also of importance is addressing the ways masculinity intertwines with gun violence, thus resulting in women being the majority of victims of intimate partner violence using guns, and what can be done to protect the victims and working towards ending gun violence.
The statistics in the US are alarming and surely call for needed legal and social change. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the chance of women in America being killed by a firearm is 16 times higher than in any other developed country . And while the United States accounts for 46 percent of the population for high-income countries, it also accounts for a disproportionate 82 percent of the gun deaths .
According to Everytown 5.3 million American women suffer annually from intimate partner violence, and monthly 52 American women are shot to death by intimate partner . While having a gun in the house increases the risk of intimate partner homicide by 500%, this risk increases to 2000% when the household has a history of domestic violence . The rate of firearm homicide in several U.S. cities are in line with, and even surpassing at times, similar rates found in the most violent countries in the world, as shown in the map by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute .
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV):
Gaps in current law regarding gun ownership are resulting in high rates of homicide against women. For example, those who are convicted of domestic violence against a current or former dating partner are not prohibited from purchasing guns, while statistics show that 48.6% of women killed by intimate partners were killed by dating partners.
Same applies to people convicted of stalking, they are not prohibited under the law from purchasing a gun, even though 85% of women who survived murder attempts were stalked.
Furthermore, even after being legally prohibited from owning a gun, many offenders can bypass background checks by purchasing firearms at gun shows or from private sellers.
Masculinity and Gun Violence
The most common answer (67%) among gun owners when asked the reason for owning a firearm is for ‘protection’ . However, an equally important yet more uncommon answer would be ‘it makes me a man.’ Nonetheless this belief is subconsciously embedded in the minds of many men; whether as a result of the patriarchal society we’ve created, with masculinity being defined in relation to power, authority, courage, violence, etc. or because of media that reinforces this image, helping portray owning guns as something heroic, for example .
These stereotypes also harm men, often through societal pressure to be tough and not show emotions or vulnerability. It has been shown that men are less likely to seek mental health care than women, according to the American Physiological Association. they instead use violence, possibly triggered by the feeling that they somehow deviate from the expected norms of masculinity. One example is loss of dominance in the house — according to a 2013 Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data, in 40% of households with children, the sole or primary source of income is from the mother .
Therefore, societal pressure, stereotypes about masculinity, and ‘the shaken’ patriarchy all play a role in increasing the chance of men being the perpetrators. It has been shown- according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center- that men are 3 times more likely to own a gun than women . Domestic Violence is a serious issue, but with the presence of a gun it becomes much worse and increases the chances of women getting killed. In 2013, more than 1600 women were killed by men, with the most common weapon used being a gun, according to a 2015 study by Violence Policy Center. Furthermore, over the past 25 years, according to the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, “more intimate partner homicides in the U.S. have been committed with guns than with all other weapons combined” .
“But if someone has a gun and is trying to kill you … it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun”, said the Dalai Lama. The words of the Dalai Lama may sound reasonable when first read, and that’s how most of us would imagine self-defense works when faced with the threat of gun violence. However, this image has largely been drawn from movies and other scripted media, whereas reality is much different. An important study by D. Hemenway, The epidemiology of self-defense gun use: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS) 2007–2011, found that “victims use guns in less than 1 percent of contact crimes, and women never use guns to protect themselves against sexual assault (in more than 300 cases). Victims using a gun were equally likely to be injured after taking protective action as victims using other forms of protective action” . Thus, there was little evidence provided by NCVS that using a gun in self-defense is an effective approach to reduce the chances of injury or murder.
Background checks for all handguns do have an effect in reducing the rates of gun violence, whether in domestic violence where 47% fewer women are killed by intimate partners, or in suicide cases with also 47% fewer suicides. And lastly a current underreported issue, shooting and killing law enforcement officers while on duty, is reduced by 53% when the state requires background checks . However, background checks are not sufficient enough to fully control and eliminate the use of guns in violence, as supported by Everytown for Gun Safety who found that “an estimated 22 percent of gun transfers take place without a background check — often between strangers who meet online, or at gun shows” .
The story of Deputy Natalie Corona is an illustration of why background checks are not solving the problem. On January 10, 2019 the 22 year old Deputy Natalie Corona was shot and killed with a semi-automatic handgun, by a random stranger approaching her from behind on a bicycle, while she was investigating a traffic accident . Later on, the 48 year old Kevin Limbaugh, shot at houses in his neighborhood, and finally shot himself and died . His medical reports showed no history of mental illness, the only violent report he had was punching a coworker which led to a misdemeanor conviction and after his death a letter on his bed was found showing that he has been suffering with paranoid delusion about the Davis Police Department -where Corona works at- hitting him with ultrasonic waves . The conviction forced him to hand in the guns he owned, thus the two guns he used to kill Corona and himself were actually illegally purchased.
All of those who knew and were close to him were shocked, “He never talked about guns with me”said his high school sweetheart, “He didn’t get into trouble in school, he was well-dressed, very handsome… he was a gentleman to me,” and his father said in a telephone interview, “I don’t think you’re going to figure out how this ever came about to happen… it sounds like he just flipped” . Officer Corona was not the only one who became a victim of gun violence as nationwide, 52 U.S law enforcement officers were fatally shot in 2018 .
Because of unpredictable or unclear cases where background checks were ineffective and an illegal purchase of guns took place, more stringent gun control laws are clearly needed. Legislation which would completely ban selling any firearms to any civilian, greater efforts in tracking illegal gun sales, working on shutting down websites that allow for unlicensed sales, as well as sales at gun shows and other such venues that don’t require background checks are necessary.
And it is important to note that becoming a possible victim of gun violence is not limited to women only, but extends to children jeopardizing themselves and anyone else nearby if they take hold of a gun in the house, as well as suicide cases and unintentional shootings and killings.
All of this tells us that a two part solution is needed to stop gun violence — (1) stronger gun control legislation with no gaps in regulating ownership and trade, and (2) a public education campaign educating the public that guns are not a reliable form of home defense, and in general are a danger to everyone around them. After all, guns are designed for one purpose — to kill people.
Call To Action
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day:
- Tweet and share on social media this image with the hashtags: #GunFreeValentine #LoveLivesHereGunsDont #DisarmDomesticViolence #IANSAWomen
- Help educate members in your community about the increased risks when a gun is present in the home.
- Spread awareness of the issue of femicide and ideas for preventing it by sharing the report “Gender-related killing of women and girls” by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).This study highlights what more can be done to prevent those killings.
- Support and get involved with Nonviolence International (nonviolenceny.org), the International Action Network on Small Arms (iansa.org), and other groups in their struggle for reasonable gun laws.
 “Robert A. Heinlein Quote.” A-Z Quotes. https://www.azquotes.com/quote/379879.
 “Guns and Domestic Violence.” EverytownResearch.org. April 04, 2018. Accessed February 21, 2019. https://everytownresearch.org/guns-domestic-violence/
 Florida, Richard. “Gun Violence in U.S. Cities Compared to the Deadliest Nations in the World.” CityLab. January 22, 2013. Accessed February 21, 2019. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2013/01/gun-violence-us-cities-compared-deadliest-nations-world/4412/
 Gun Threats and Self Defense Gun Use. Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
 “The Background Check Loophole.” EverytownResearch.org. January 03, 2019. Accessed February 21, 2019. https://everytownresearch.org/background-checks-save-lives/
 “Guns and Domestic Violence.” National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Accessed February 21, 2019. https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/guns_and_dv.pdf.
EveryTown for Gun Safety Fund. Gun Violence by the Numbers, EveryTown For Gun Safety, https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/#DailyDeath
 “Background checks reduce gun violence and save lives.” Everytown for Gun Safety. https://everytownresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Background-Check-FactSheet_011317_5.pdf.
 “The Tragic, Preventable Death of Deputy Natalie Corona.” Americans Against Gun Violence. https://aagunv.org/the-tragic-preventable-death-of-deputy-natalie-corona/
 Stanton, Sam, and Sam Stanton. “Exclusive: New Details Emerge about Kevin Limbaugh, the Man Who Killed Davis Officer Natalie Corona.” Sacbee. February 03, 2019. https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article225054545.html
 Dastagir, Alia E. “‘Guns Don’t Kill People; Men and Boys Kill People,’ Experts Say.” USA Today. February 15, 2018. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/10/10/men-special-risk-guns-they-love/734961001/.
 Parker, Kim, Juliana Horowitz, Ruth Igielbik, Baxter Oliphant, and Anna Brown. “The Demographics of Gun Ownership in the U.S.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. October 25, 2018. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/06/22/the-demographics-of-gun-ownership/.