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While NNEDV commends Congress for taking steps to protect survivors in the CARES Act, seri [Read More]

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Domestic Violence Homicide Is Not Inevitable

October 30, 2015

“Did you know that abusive dating partners and stalkers are allowed to own firearms under federal law? I heard that in my conference this morning and it can’t be true right?” one of my colleagues disconcertedly questioned; I rubbed my eyes and sighed. I thought about the stack of papers I had just sorted through—quotes from victims that had been threatened or shot by firearms still fresh in my mind, and memories of past client’s being taunted by their abusers with firearms. “It’s true,” I responded.

This confusion is not out of the ordinary. Most people incorrectly assume that domestic violence abusers would have no legal right to possess firearms, but in fact federal law does not stop many of these perpetrators from acquiring guns. The federal domestic violence offender gun ban does not apply to abusive dating partners or those convicted of stalking misdemeanors. This means that an abuser can punch, kick, strangle, or beat their dating partner and still legally purchase firearms under federal law. Stalking is a dangerous crime that can quickly escalate to the point of physical violence and turn fatal. However, a convicted misdemeanor stalker is still legally entitled to possess and purchase firearms, even after they threaten the lives of their victims.

Perpetrators of intimate partner violence typically turn to firearms to commit fatalities. The presence or absence of these weapons in the home can determine if a domestic violence victim lives or dies at the hands of their abuser. [1] Homes with guns have a threefold increased homicide risk as compared to homes without guns. Nationwide, more than five times as many women are murdered with guns used by their husbands or intimate partners than are murdered with strangers’ guns, knives, or other weapons combined. [2] Research and history demonstrate that women’s lives are most at risk when they are in the company of abusive partners that have firearms readily accessible. [3]

Christin Stock, a 35-year-old mother of two from Washington, was killed by her ex-boyfriend in a murder-suicide five days after she filed a protective order against him in 2008. Although her murderer had been previously convicted of stalking another woman, his prior conviction alongside her new protective order did not prevent him from buying the two firearms, stun gun, and ammunition he used to kill her and himself. [4]

In 2010 Yvonne Flores, a 58-year-old woman from Colorado, was shot to death by her neighbor in a murder-suicide two weeks after he was arrested for stalking. She had filed for a temporary restraining order against him immediately following his arrest out of fear that he would “get a gun and kill her.” [5]

How many victims have to hear “that piece of paper (meaning a protective order) won’t stop a bullet” before federal law steps in to protect them? Domestic violence homicides continue to devastate communities across the United States. What we fail to recognize is that these tragic fatalities are in no way inevitable. Together, we can make a difference by passing and supporting commonsense gun-control legislation, and ensuring that the existing laws are fully enforced. Together, we can prevent these murders and save innumerable lives.

By Marium Durrani, Public Policy Attorney at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)

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[1] The New England Journal Of Medicine, available at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199310073291506

[2] Violence Policy Center, When Men Murder Woman, available at http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2015.pdf

[3] Violence Policy Center, When Men Murder Woman, available at http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2015.pdf

[4] Peninsula Daily News, available at http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20080227/NEWS/802270307

[5] 9NEWS, available at http://archive.9news.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=142775