Nov 2, 2016 · 5 min read

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is the cofounder of Americans for Responsible Solutions and of the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense. The views expressed here are her own.

What should we do about the loopholes in our laws that give domestic abusers and stalkers the option of buying a gun with no questions asked?

As we mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, that’s another question I wish the moderator of last night’s debate had posed to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as they stood on the stage together for the final time during this long, long campaign.

With 51 of America’s women murdered with a gun by their current or former partner every single month, it’s a national crisis that requires not only serious discussion, but action, too.

The stakes this November are high, too. And you have an opportunity to help elect a president and a Congress that will do more to keep guns out of the hands of abusers and stalkers — and to make our country a safer place to live.

First, here is what this American crisis looks like: From 2001 to 2012, 6,410 American woman were shot to death by an intimate partner. That’s more than all of the American troops who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And women in our country are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other countries like ours.

So what is it about the United States that makes women here so much more likely to be murdered with a gun than in so many other countries?

PHOTOGRAPHED BY RACHEL CABITT. Gabrielle Giffords speaks on the steps of New York’s City Hall on Monday as part of her Vocal Majority campaign.

It’s not that we are more violent than our peer countries.

It’s not that we have higher rates of domestic violence.

And it’s not that we have higher rates of mental illness.

But we do have weak laws that make it far too easy for abusers and stalkers to arm themselves.

Right now, our federal laws say that people who are under restraining orders or have been convicted of domestic violence can’t buy or own guns; they can’t pass a criminal background check, which is required at licensed gun dealers. But in most states, those very same people have the option of buying a gun without a background check. They can go to a gun show, where background checks aren’t required, and buy one with no questions asked. They can do the same through a stranger they met online.

Ask yourself: Which option is the domestic abuser going to choose?

And even though more and more of America’s women are choosing to remain in dating relationships longer and marry later in life, and women between the ages of 18 and 24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner, our laws haven’t been updated to address dating partner abuse: violence that occurs between intimate partners who haven’t lived together, had a child together, or been married before.

Just as troubling, under our laws today, someone with a misdemeanor stalking conviction can pass a background check and legally get a gun. Because stalking — which people aged 18 to 24 experience at the highest rates — is such a strong predictor of future violence, that gap in our laws can have fatal consequences.

What makes these gaps in our laws so irresponsible is that we know guns and domestic violence are a deadly mix: When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation against a woman, she is five times more likely to die.

Keeping guns out of the hands of abusers and stalkers, then, is an important way to protect women and their families.

Yet the Washington gun lobby and the candidates it backs — including Donald Trump — have worked hard to protect these loopholes in our laws. In vote after vote and talking point after talking point, this powerful, vocal minority have made their position clear: Let’s do nothing about these gaps in our laws that let abusers and stalkers get guns.

Hillary Clinton and many other candidates for every level of office want action. Hillary has fought her entire adult life for women and families. And part of that fight has been a tireless effort to keep guns out of the hands of abusers and other dangerous people. At every turn, she has stood up to the gun lobby. I know she is committed to acting if she is elected as our first woman president.

That’s why I’ve been traveling across our country on my 14-state, 42-day national bus tour, the Vocal Majority Tour, to urge Americans to do something simple but powerful: Be part of the Vocal Majority of Americans who want our leaders to act, and vote to stop gun violence.

Say that only a candidate like Hillary Clinton who is ready to stand up to the gun lobby and to support responsible change gets your vote. If you want to help protect women from domestic violence, then this November, you must be a gun-violence prevention voter.

It is not enough to support responsible changes to our laws. You also must support the candidates up and down the ballot who will make those responsible changes — and safer communities — a reality.

No matter how hard it is, we will make our voices heard, together. And we will make sure that 2016 is remembered as the year that Americans went to the ballot box to protect women and families from gun violence — and voted for a safer future.

Related: These Are The Issues That Are Really Driving Young Women To The Polls


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