October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, are honoring the victims and survivors of domestic violence by advocating for proven tactics to saves lives, including measures to disarm domestic abusers, studying the intersection of gun violence and intimate partner violence, and funding domestic violence intervention organizations.
When domestic abusers have access to guns, the effects can be deadly — particularly for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native women and Latinas, who experience the highest rates of intimate partner gun homicide. Access to a gun makes it five times more likely that a woman will die at the hands of her abuser and across the nation, 70 women are shot and killed by intimate partners every month. Guns can also exacerbate the power and control dynamic used by abusers to inflict emotional abuse and exert coercive control over their victims, even when abusers do not ultimately pull the trigger. Nearly one million women alive today have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner and 4.5 million have been threatened with a gun. The trauma from gun-related domestic violence can reverberate beyond the intimate partner relationship, impacting children, friends, concerned neighbors or persons who intervened, first responders and entire families across generations.
Dangerous loopholes in federal and state laws make it far too easy for domestic abusers to access guns. Under federal law, people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses and those subject to domestic violence restraining orders are prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms. However, it does not generally cover all abusive dating partners and many convicted stalkers, and does not require the surrendering of firearms by abusers. Lawmakers at every level of government should pass policies that are proven to help disarm abusers, including background checks on all gun sales, prohibiting people with dangerous histories from having guns, closing the Charleston Loophole, and alerting local law enforcement of failed background checks. More information on legislative solutions can be found here.
This month, lawmakers in Michigan are taking action on urgently needed legislation to disarm domestic abusers. The bill moving in the Michigan legislature would prohibit people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanor offenses from owning or possessing firearms.
Currently, The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing an incredibly dangerous challenge that could result in arming domestic abusers. In February, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down a critical, long-standing federal gun safety law that protects domestic violence survivors and keeps guns out of the hands of individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders. By declaring this critical law to be unconstitutional, the Fifth Circuit panel removed a key federal protection against arming abusers in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. If the Supreme Court affirms that dangerous decision, domestic violence survivors nationwide could face the prospect that their abusers can arm themselves. The Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on November 7.
Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund’s Domestic Violence Grant Program provides local and state domestic violence organizations access to funding. These grants support activities related to addressing the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence. Past grantees have used the funding from Everytown to support operational costs, capacity-building training opportunities, salaries for staff and contractors, and more. These survivor serving organizations require resourcing and funding. More information about the Domestic Violence Grants Program is available here.
More information on the intersection of gun violence and domestic violence is available here. Additional resources for gun-related domestic violence are available here. To speak with a policy expert, Moms Demand Action volunteer and/or Students Demand Action volunteer, please do not hesitate to reach out.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, available 24/7, for confidential assistance from a trained advocate. You can also find more resources on legal assistance in English and Spanish at WomensLaw.org.