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June 26, 2008

Domestic violence accounts for over one-third of all reported violent crimes in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Domestic violence claims the lives of three women each day and guns are undeniably the weapon of choice in these homicides. Studies show that from 1980 to 2000, 60% to 70% of abusers who killed their female partners used guns to do so. Simply having a gun in the house makes an abused woman seven times more likely than other women to be killed.

The mere presence of a gun, whether it is fired or not, has long-term, devastating effects on domestic violence victims. An abuser will often use the gun to terrorize the victim - pointing it at the victim, threatening to harm others or even commit suicide. Such threats lead to a constant state of fear and post-traumatic stress. Justice Breyer's dissent pays specific attention to the deadly role guns play in domestic violence.

Although it makes it harder for legislatures to protect victims of domestic violence, the Court's opinion does not strike down existing, effective restrictions that keep guns out of the hands of batterers. There is a well-established federal framework for regulating gun possession and such laws are precisely the sort of lawful regulatory measure referred to by the Court. For example, the federal Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban prohibits anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or subject a protective order from purchasing or possessing a gun. Similar gun restrictions at the federal, state and local level have been instrumental in protecting thousands of domestic violence victims. Domestic violence convictions and restraining orders are the second most common reasons for the denial of hand gun applications. Statistics collected by the Department of Justice and analyzed by the Congressional Research Service estimate that the Lautenberg Amendment had blocked over 150,000 attempted gun purchases by people convicted of domestic violence crimes.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence will work with the District of Columbia and other states to ensure their firearms prohibitions meet the standards of the Court while keeping guns out of the hands of batterers.