Today I am proud to announce that I have joined the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense, a new coalition founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions. This coalition brings together women leaders from across industries who share a commitment to combating gun violence and domestic abuse. In its work, the coalition will focus on advocating for action on commonsense laws that protect women and families from gun violence, and address the lethal links between access to guns and domestic violence. Our goals are to:
- Prevent stalkers and abusers from having easy access to guns;
- Close the background check loopholes in our federal laws that let felons and domestic abusers legally buy and own firearms; and,
- Strengthen existing laws and ensure lawmakers and stakeholders have the resources and training they need to prevent and address gun violence against women.
Firearms have always been part of the story of domestic violence and what abusive partners can do to their intimate partners. Women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered by a gun than women in other high-income countries, and abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm. In 36 states, more than half of intimate partner-related homicides of women in each state involved a gun.
Our advocates hear shocking stories every day. What becomes clear from these stories is that firearms violence is not just about homicides. It is a tool that abusive partners use to control and torture their intimate partners. In our 2014 survey on the use of firearms in domestic violence situations, 67% of respondents believed their partner was capable of killing them, which creates enough fear to keep victims from leaving. Of the respondents whose partners had access to guns, more than 1 in 5 said their partners had threatened to use a firearm to hurt the victims, their children, pets or other family members.
Knowing these numbers, and with other instances of gun violence continually in the headlines, the time for action is now. We need everyone in the community – including employers – to be aware of this deadly issue and understand how they have a role to play, whether they are a business or faith leader, someone who provides housing in the community, someone who provides financial assistance, or someone who is a good friend or work colleague willing to support the survivor as she tries to deal with the violence.
If there were a rash of burglaries or muggings in our communities, we’d be advocating for police and the courts to take action. Firearms violence in intimate partner relationships is another crime that we shouldn’t accept as something that just happens.
We can change this. We can help victims become survivors. We can’t afford to do nothing. We need to act now.
Learn how you can get involved at Americans for Responsible Solutions.
Katie Ray-Jones is the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect.