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Guns and Domestic Violence

Disclaimer: The follow piece does not necessarily represent the views of Maryland NOW, Maryland NOW PAC, its officers, or members.

By Don Quinn, Director, Indelible Ink LC.

April 26, 2014

America, as the world’s leading democracy, has come to hold a place of great reverence. There is little doubt that we have blazed trails for other nations to follow and there is even less doubt that we bear some slightly more dubious honors. Our vaunted freedom often comes at a cost, a cost for our most vulnerable. The second amendment is one of the most fought over and acrimonious parts of the constitution with gun rights advocates on the one hand advocating for more access to guns, and gun control supporters arguing for tighter controls. Both sides would have to agree with a recent decision by the Supreme Court.

In an important decision for women’s rights and the protection of those facing domestic violence or abuse, the Supreme Court decided in U.S. v. Castleman (PDF of opinion available here) to keep guns away from those who have a history of domestic violence. In a country where women are 11 times more likely to be murdered by a firearm, it is a terrifying prospect that the Supreme Court even had to rule on, what would seem to be, such a common sense decision. Those who have a past history of domestic violence or abuse have no business having a gun in the first place. When an abuser is given the power of a firearm, they are not only being given an instrument of torture and death, but they are also being allowed to further their control using this instrument of death. Fear is a primary weapon that abusers use to subjugate and humiliate their victims. Adding a weapon to the mix only serves to reinforce the power the abuser has over the victim’s life and, as studies have shown, will use often without hesitation if they feel like their “authority” is being challenged.

When one looks at the statistics it is understandable why those fighting for a positive Supreme Court decision breathed a collective sigh of relief at this ruling. In 2010, more than 3 women were murdered everyday by their intimate partner. Nearly two thirds of all female homicides in America are committed by a current or previous partner and of those over 52% were committed with a gun. Where there is a gun in the home of an abuser the risk of a woman being murdered increase by 8 fold, while the easy access to a firearm has a direct correlation to the chance of an intimate partner being murdered to the tune of a 500% increase. Even when there is not the extreme step of murder studies have shown a significant increase in the level and viciousness of abuse committed by intimate partners who have access to a gun.

Giving an abuser access to a gun is not a right, and certainly not one that should be protected by the Constitution. Already terrified from the abuse, what woman would dare to leave her abuser and seek help if she knew he had access to a gun and could potentially track down and kill her, as well as those who might offer her shelter? When you add children to the mix, as there often are in cases of domestic violence, one has to ask how we can expect a mother to flee and potentially expose her children to death.

As a society that has come to view ourselves as a world leader in freedom, we cannot condone people who have a history of abuse and violence against their intimate partners to possess the means to do greater damage. Those who have proven that they have little regard for the sanctity of human life with actions that can only be deplored as despicable have lost the right to the protections of the Constriction, just as those who have been convicted of other violent crimes have lost the right to bear arms and the right to their freedom. We must, in the interest of our freedom and our decency, not make these fights about bearing arms, but remember that as a society if we do not act to protect those who need our protections the most, then we truly have lost the moral authority to lead anything, much less the free world.


Data from Futures Without Violence, PDF factsheet available here http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/Gun%20Fact%20Sheet_FINAL%2003%2003%2013.pdf