As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep people in their homes, experts and police have seen an uptick in domestic violence calls. On Thursday evening, a Buckeye man shot and killed his wife in a domestic dispute citing “the stress from being in the house and not being able to leave due to the coronavirus” as a factor.
Days before, CNN reported on a deadly domestic violence dispute in Phoenix where a police commander was shot and killed and two other officers were wounded. Around the state, police departments are seeing a rise in domestic violence calls.
According to the Phoenix police department, officers were dispatched on 3,395 domestic violence calls in March 2019, and the calls have increased by almost 200 in March 2020. Already, in the first week of April there has been a 15 percent increase of domestic violence calls compared to last year, according to Phoenix Police Department Sergeant Mercedes Fortune.
Meanwhile, Arizona has seen a rise in gun sales: the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) found that the number of background checks conducted in the state during March 2020 was nearly 122 percent higher than in March 2019.
“The coronavirus public health crisis is compounding and exposing other public health crises like domestic violence,” said Tracey Theisen, a volunteer with the Arizona chapter of Moms Demand Action and member of the Everytown Survivor Network who was threatened with a gun by her abuser. “With more people at home with firearms, the risk for a deadly domestic violence situation only increases. Republican lawmakers had several chances to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and did not act. Arizona women and families are now at a heightened risk, and in November, we won’t forget lawmakers’ inaction.”
In January, a bipartisan group of Arizona lawmakers led by Republican Senator Kate Brophy McGee and Democratic Representatives Jennifer Longdon and Daniel Hernandez introduced SB 1165 and HB 2543. Instead of moving forward with this life-saving bill, Republicans in the legislature prioritized and pushed forward risky legislation that would jeopardize the safety of Arizonans, such as a policy to mandate armed school marshalls and a bill that would have created new liability for public entities that choose to prohibit firearms — both of which were ultimately defeated.
Here’s more on domestic violence in Arizona:
- Domestic violence and gun violence are inextricably linked. Every month, an average of 53 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner in the United States. Nearly 1 million women alive today have reported being shot or shot at by intimate partners, and 4.5 million women have reported being threatened with a gun.
- Between 2012 and 2016, the rate of intimate partner gun homicide in Arizona was 66 percent higher than the national average. And amid COVID-19 closures, concerns for domestic violence among families in isolation continue to grow.
- Arizona gun laws are among the weakest in the country, with no legal requirements for background checks on unlicensed gun sales, and Arizona experiences high rates of domestic violence gun homicide. But to date, the legislature in Arizona has refused to take action to reduce gun violence, even when more than 1,000 Arizonans are shot and killed every year.
- Arizonans overwhelmingly support domestic violence legislation. Polling found that Arizonans overwhelmingly support stronger gun laws by an 8:1 margin – including a bill to disarm domestic abusers.
In February, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund launched a $250,000 digital ad campaign calling on state lawmakers to pass common-sense gun laws, including a bill that would close the gaps that give domestic abusers easier access to guns. The digital campaign announcement was part of Everytown’s first digital ad campaign pressuring state legislators to take action on gun safety in 2020.
More information about domestic violence legislation available here. Statistics about gun violence in Arizona are available here, and information on how Arizona’s gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here.