Domestic Violence Victims Outgunned

Weak gun laws and enforcement prioritize the right to bear arms over human lives.

Five Figures to Consider

A woman is 5X more likely to be killed if abusive partner owns gun
20% of homicide victims with temporary protective orders are murdered within two days of obtaining order
16 states require subjects of final domestic violence convictions to surrender guns
22% of gun sales in America occur without background checks
Domestic violence costs the U.S. economy $8.3 billion annually

Nowadays you need a permit to set up a lemonade stand, but not necessarily to buy a gun. Federal domestic violence and gun laws aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of hot-headed paramours are riddled with giant loopholes rendering them ineffective at protecting the target of their passions. The laws define partner too narrowly and in most cases do not force abusive partners to turn over their guns. This leaves vulnerable women at significant risk. Women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if the intimate partner owns a gun.  

Imagine your daughter is dating someone who is the jealous type, and her Lothario turns violent when she tries to break off the relationship. Since she never married him (thank goodness!) or shared a house with him and he is not her father or the father of her child, he would not be subject to federal domestic violence laws, as they do not apply to dating partners or stalkers. That means her Lothario-with-a-short-fuse would be at liberty to buy and keep guns; the laws literally don’t apply to him. Research shows this definition of intimate partner is too narrow; more than half of restraining orders are issued to stalkers or dating partners, not spouses, and more women are killed each year by a dating partner than by a spouse.

Suppose your resourceful daughter obtains a temporary restraining order but lives in one of the 42 states that allow thwarted Lotharios to purchase and use their guns unfettered during the one to four-week time period between the issue of the order and the hearing. Tell her to run for the hills. The statistical story says 20% of homicide victims who have temporary restraining orders against their killers are murdered within two days of obtaining the order.  Just nine states authorize the removal of firearms from subjects of temporary restraining orders. Federal law should prioritize the right to life over the right to bear arms.

If the temporary restraining order leads to a final domestic violence conviction for her fervent Lothario, under federal law he will no longer be allowed to own guns. However, there is no enforcement that he surrender the guns he already owns. Think an angry ex is likely to turn in the handgun tucked under his car seat  if the police don’t show up and force him to?  Just 16 states require people subject to final domestic violence convictions to turn in their guns; federal law should follow their lead.

Now assume Lothario was convicted and lived in one of the states that forced abusers to surrender their weapons. Your lovely daughter would still not be safe. Federal law only requires background checks at licensed dealers. However, 22% of all gun sales are made online, at gun shows, through private dealers or unlicensed sellers, none of which are subject to background checks or federal record-keeping requirements. Common sense says Lothario heads to one of those dealers if he wants a new gun.

Reporting on an investigation in New York City, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found  that 62% of private online firearms sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer even after the buyer had told the seller he could not  pass a background check.  Federal laws should require universal background checks for all firearm sales whenever and wherever the point of transfer of a firearm may occur. Closing loopholes and enacting common sense gun laws will save the U.S. economy $8.3 billion a year in healthcare costs and lost productivity without infringing on the rights of peaceful gun owners.

Gun laws in America favor the rights of gun owners over victims of partner violence. Laws that keep guns away from violent aggressors by expanding the definition of intimate partner, prohibiting gun access when a temporary restraining order is issued, requiring  background checks for all gun sales and requiring abusers to relinquish all guns in their possession make sense and safeguard Second Amendment rights for the “good guys.”