The Common Good

The Loophole That Allows Domestic Abusers to Have Guns

Across the country, dangerous people with records of domestic violence, stalking, and aggression have no legal restriction keeping them from obtaining guns. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to explore the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence. The hearing discussed major loopholes in the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which successfully prohibited some convicted domestic abusers from gaining access to firearms. Yet even with the prohibitions in VAWA, abusers who don’t share a home with their intimate partner and abusers convicted of misdemeanor stalking charges are free to keep the weapons they have and to purchase new weapons.

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“I am here today to speak for my sister Zina. I speak for Zina and her entire family because Zina is not here to speak for herself.”

Elvin Daniel, and NRA member and gun owner, lost his sister to domestic violence with a firearm and testified today in support of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) S. 1290: Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013.

The tragic loss of Zina’s life is not an isolated incident. A study about the relationship between domestic violence and gun violence released by the Center for American Progress highlights how deadly this major loophole can be for thousands of women. The statistics are stunning:

  • While 2.5 percent of men who are murdered are killed by a female intimate partner, 34 percent of women who are murdered are killed by a male intimate partner.
  • Of all the women killed by male intimate partners from 2001-2012, 55 percent are killed with a firearm.
  • More women (6,410) in the United States have been killed by a significant other with a firearm from 2001-2012 than U.S. troops have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not only have thousands of women been killed by their significant other or spouse, but thousands more live every day in fear that their abusive partner will kill them. According to a survey conducted by the National Domestic Violence Hotline with survivors of domestic violence, 64 percent believe that their partner is capable of killing them. Every year, 330,000 people call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

With such overwhelming statistics, it is easy to lose track of the stories of the lives that are damaged and lost because of domestic violence. Everytown for Gun Safety has released an ad that depicts a scene of domestic violence that is all too common across the country. Behind each number listed above is a story that isn’t much different from what this video shows:

While these statistics and stories make it clear that guns in the hands of domestic abusers is a huge problem, we can work to significantly reduce the frequency of these crimes. Not every industrialized country faces such rampant and deadly domestic violence as the United States does. In fact, women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other industrialized countries according to the CAP study. Better laws can greatly reduce the frequency of women killed by intimate partners with guns.

Closing the VAWA loopholes isn’t a partisan issue either. Across the country, states have closed these loopholes with overwhelming support from legislators on both sides of the aisle. These new laws have been signed into law by prominent conservative Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Though changes in policy at a state level are important, federal policy can guarantee that regardless of the state that a woman lives in, she can live without the fear that her abusive partner can legally obtain a weapon.

While state and federal policies are both important to reducing the frequency of domestic violence with firearms, the church must address this pressing issue more frequently. The church has the moral and spiritual responsibility to speak out for those who are most marginalized in society, including victims of domestic and gun violence.

The Center for American Progress report comes a month after Sojourners released its report in conjunction with IMA World Health and Lifeway Research on pastors understanding of domestic and sexual violence. That study found that the overwhelming majority of pastors underestimate the frequency of sexual and domestic violence in their congregations and also rarely speak about the issue from the pulpit. Eighty percent of pastors did indicate that “they would take appropriate action to reduce sexual and domestic violence if they had the training and resources to do so.”

The data is in and the stories have been told. Domestic violence and gun violence destroy the lives of thousands of women. It is time for our political leaders to close loopholes that allow guns to legally end up in the hands of dangerous people and it is time for faith leaders to get educated and provide the appropriate resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Together, this is a problem that we can solve.

Joey Longley is Communications Assistant for Sojourners.

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