Every 16 hours, an American woman is fatally shot by an intimate partner. Domestic violence takes 2,000 lives per year in the US, with women being 80% of the victims and guns being the weapon of choice for more than half of these homicides. Studies have shown that the risk of death for a domestic violence victim increases to 500% when the abuser has access to a gun. There have been many cases of abusers killing not just their spouses, but also their children, parents, relatives, friends, pets, and even complete strangers.
In the face of these facts, one would think there ought to be stricter gun ownership laws in the United States. Yet the passing of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 in the house of congress even further loosens gun ownership restrictions. If passed into law, the CCRA would now require all states to honor concealed carry permits issued elsewhere. This allows people to choose states with lenient criminal background checks and transport firearms across state lines. If someone is previously denied purchase due to their domestic abuse history, they can simply try again in a different state and carry the gun practically anywhere.
“The best indicator of whether a woman will be killed by her partner is prior domestic violence between those two people,” says Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell who has studied domestic violence for 35 years at Johns Hopkins University. 70% of women eventually killed in a domestic violence case have been abused in the past by their killer. Although there are many risk factors that contribute to homicide, gun access is considered as the biggest one.
Experts agree that proving that the right-to-carry dramatically increases rates of gun violence as well as domestic abuse fatality. “Domestic violence is the most common scenario for use of guns,” says Samantha Greene, a San Diego domestic violence attorney. “If we make the process of firearm purchase easier than it already is, it’s likely that we’ll see an increase in domestic violence deaths.”
In 27 states, the US have laws to ban firearm access to people with a history of domestic abuse. Seventeen states require reported abusers to turnover their firearms to the government in the face of a domestic violence conviction. While previous domestic abusers are prohibited by federal law from gun ownership, there is a “Boyfriend Loophole” under the law that only recognizes abuse when it is between married couples or partners who share a child together. This loophole leaves as much as half of the victims vulnerable as studies show that people are murdered by their dating beau as much as their husbands. Unlicensed private gun merchants also account for 25% of total gun sales that go unchecked by the government. On top of that, abuses that go unreported in the federal system cannot forbid abusers from purchasing and concealed carry of firearms.
The National Rifle Authority (NRA) who lobbied for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act suggests that rather than banning guns, promoting gun ownership among domestic violence victims can enable them to defend themselves. 56% of women who own guns, along with majority of Americans, believe that they feel safer when they have access to firearms. Research says otherwise, however, and suggests that a woman’s chances of dying actually increases with gun ownership. From 1991 to 1996, women with firearms died from gun homicide twice as much as women who didn’t own guns. Those who are able to protect themselves with use of guns are also not free from the risk of ending up in jail for the crime. Unless the US government moves to implement stricter gun control, victims of domestic abuse will remain at a grave disadvantage.