This month, Maryland lawmakers are working on a bill that could better protect victims of domestic violence, by taking away abusers’ firearms within two days of conviction. The bill would allow a judge to bring a convicted abuser back into court within five days, where they would have to prove they turned over their guns.
Just last month, Oregon closed the “boyfriend loophole,” that had allowed convicted domestic abusers, who weren’t married and didn’t have children, to keep their firearms. The state had banned those with domestic violence or stalking convictions from owning guns since 2015, but closing this loophole helps protect women who could be shot by abusive partners they aren’t married to.
“A person who assaults their boyfriend or girlfriend is no less guilty of domestic violence than someone who assaults their husband or wife,” House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D) told OregonLive.
To the majority of us, it makes sense that domestic abusers should have to relinquish their firearms. While federal law prohibits gun possession by certain domestic abusers, it’s up to state laws to make sure that convicted domestic abusers actually surrender their weapons.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, only 15 states currently require abusers subject to final domestic violence restraining orders to turn in their guns. 15 states out of 50.
Federal law prohibits convicted domestic abusers from possessing guns, and they would fail a background check if they tried to purchase one, so it’s not okay that 35 states don’t have laws ensuring abusers surrender the weapons they already own. It’s a deadly loophole.
And women are paying the ultimate price. Women in the U.S. are killed at alarming rates by intimate partners, and are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries. And the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.
Abusers use guns to threaten and control their victims, even if they never pull the trigger. About 4.5 million American women alive today have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner.
There is also a very real connection between a history of domestic violence and a propensity for future violence, including mass shootings.
“Men who commit violence rehearse and perfect it against their families first. Women and children are target practice, and the home is the training ground for these men’s later actions,” Pamela Shifman and Salamishah Tillet wrote for the New York Times.
According to Vox, several perpetrators of mass shootings were accused or convicted of domestic violence in the past, including Omar Mateen, who carried out the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016; Robert Lewis Dear, the alleged 2015 Planned Parenthood shooter; John Houser, who killed two and injured nine in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, in 2014; and James Huberty, who killed 21 people at a California McDonald’s in 1984.
So it makes sense that we would force convicted abusers to surrender their weapons, not just for their victims of violence, but for the safety of the public at large.
Studies show that legislation limiting the legal access criminals have to guns has reduced
violent crime. Cities in states that restrict access to guns by people with domestic violence restraining orders see a 25 percent reduction in intimate partner gun homicides.
A different study interviewed protective order petitioners and found that when they reported that the judge had ordered their abusers to surrender their weapons, the rate of gun surrender did rise.
We must continue to speak up for gun control, and not just in the wake of another preventable mass shooting. We have to speak up at the local and state level and demand change. Let’s join together until we are unstoppable force.
And we have to vote like the lives of our loved ones are at stake, because they are.