The Link Between Domestic Abuse and Gun Violence Cannot Be Ignored Any Longer

Founder of 'Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America', Shannon Watts, makes an impassioned plea for improved gun regulation after yet another alleged domestic abuser perpetrates yet another mass shooting. Image credit: erikthenorsk/Flickr

Writing for Vogue, Shannon Watts - founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America - brings home the reality of the domestic abuse connection to gun violence in the U.S. It is commonplace for mass shootings to precipitate renewed calls for gun control legislation, often centered around the issue of mental health; but as Watts shows, sensible reform focused on perpetrators of domestic abuse warrants equal attention.

She notes that the U.S. has suffered 85 mass shootings in less than five years; that 54 percent of mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence; and that a staggering 25 percent of mass shooting victims are children under age 17.

In July 2017 in Maine, a man shot his wife, child, and a neighbor before being killed by police. In August 2016, a man shot and killed his wife and their three young children—ages 2 to 8—before fatally shooting himself in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania. In June 2016 in Las Vegas, a man fatally shot his wife outside a Walgreens store. He then fatally shot their three children—ages 9 to 15—in the family’s apartment before fatally shooting himself. The list of similar incidents is appallingly long and unrelentingly tragic.

Fighting for changes to gun related legislation is difficult, as the NRA consistently opposes even sensible reform, leaving many known and unknown abusers with valid, legal avenues for purchasing firearms.

Federal laws prohibiting abusers from having guns don’t apply to dating partners or stalkers. They also don’t give state and local officials the ability to remove guns from abusers. And, thanks to the unlicensed sale loophole that allows people in most states to get guns without a background check at gun shows or online, many abusers have easy access to guns even when they’re prohibited from purchasing them.

But Watts, her organization, and others like it have shown that change is possible - even if the pace is painfully slow.

Since the start of 2013, we’ve worked with 25 state legislatures, red and blue, to strengthen existing laws or pass new domestic gun violence laws. In 2017 alone, eight states passed these bills, almost all of them signed into law by Republican governors: Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Utah.Just weeks ago, Rhode Island’s governor signed into law a bill that prohibits domestic abusers from possessing firearms and requires them to turn in their guns. The victory was the culmination of a three-year effort by Moms Demand Action and other gun violence–prevention allies. Lobbyists for the NRA fought us every step of the way.