Firearms & DV

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Firearms & Domestic Violence

When an abusive partner has access to firearms, statistics show that domestic violence is more likely to turn deadly. According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent. More than half of women murdered with guns are killed by family members or intimate partners.*

In the spring of 2014, the Hotline conducted its own 8-week focus survey on the use of firearms in domestic violence situations. The survey revealed how the presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship intensifies the fear of abuse victims and escalates the violence directed towards them, regardless of whether or not the survivor is married, dating or being stalked by the abuser.

* J.C. Campbell, D.W. Webster, J. Koziol-McLain, et al., “Risk factors for femicide within physically abusive intimate relationships: results from a multi-site case control study,” 93 Amer. J. of Public Health 1089-1097 (2003).

U.S. Firearms Statistics
  • Women in the U.S. are 11x more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries**
  • Female intimate partners are more likely to be murdered with a firearm than all other means combined***
  • The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%****
  • In states that require a background check for every handgun sale, 38% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners*****

** D. Hemenway and E.G. Richardson, “Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Firearm Fatality: Comparing the United States with Other High-Income Countries, 2003,” 70 Journal of Trauma 238-42 (2011), available at doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3181dbaddf.

*** When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2010 Homicide Data: Females Murdered by Males in Single Victim/Single Offender Incidents. 2012. Violence Policy Center. Washington, DC. Retrieved January 17, 2013. http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2012.pdf.

**** J.C. Campbell, D.W. Webster, J. Koziol-McLain, et al., “Risk factors for femicide within physically abusive intimate relationships: results from a multi-site case control study,” 93 Amer. J. of Public Health 1089-1097 (2003).

***** U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2010, available at http://bit.ly/V1GvFe (excludes New York due to incomplete data).

Hotline Survey Results

Of the 4,721 chatters who participated, nearly 16% had partners who had access to guns. Of those:

  • 22% said their partners had threatened to use a firearm to hurt the victim, their children, other family members or friends, household pets, or to commit suicide
  • 10% said their partner had fired a gun during an argument

Only 34% of those surveyed were aware that the court may be able to order their partner to surrender their firearms and ammunition.

Nearly 52% said they would feel safer if law enforcement took their partner’s/ex’s/spouse’s firearms.

67% of those who completed the survey believed their partner was capable of killing them.

In light of these disturbing statistics, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired combat veteran and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline have announced a new report and toolkit, Saving Women’s Lives, to serve as a resource for state and local leaders to adopt best practices that will help protect domestic violence victims from gun violence.

With more information and resources, along with stronger policies in place to protect victims, we know that together we can save lives.