If October is like every other month, 46 women in the United States will be murdered with a gun by an intimate partner.
Public attention was gripped by the most recent mass shooting, at the Navy Yard in Washington, but during Domestic Violence Awareness month, we need to focus on the fact that women face a heightened risk of gun violence.
Women are more than three-and-a-half times as likely to be killed by an intimate partner as men. A gun in a household with a history of domestic violence increases by 20 times the risk that a woman will be killed there, compared to households without guns. Similarly, more than 75 percent of stalking victims are women — and stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten their victims in 1 out of 5 cases. The statistics show: Guns plus a history of domestic violence or stalking equals increased risk of death to women.
Tragically, there are numerous stories that bear this out. Zina Daniel obtained a restraining order against her estranged husband after he made numerous threats against her. Teri Lee sought police protection and obtained a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend after he broke into her home and threatened her with butcher knives. Stacey Sutera notified police when an acquaintance began stalking her, and ultimately helped secure a criminal conviction against him. Laura Acevez sought police protection from an abusive ex-boyfriend and told police that he owned guns. These women were all shot and killed by the men who abused them, even after seeking help from the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, there are so many others.
Congress recognized the risks posed by domestic abusers with guns by passing legislation in the 1990s prohibiting people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or subject to certain restraining orders from possessing guns. These laws have been effective in preventing some dangerous individuals from obtaining guns: Since November 1998, more than 104,000 gun sales to convicted domestic abusers have been prevented by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, as well as an additional 44,000 sales to abusers subject to restraining orders.