On Saturday, Milwaukee leaders held a virtual event to discuss the rise in domestic violence in the city and how to prevent the other “state of emergency” of domestic violence while practicing social distancing. According to the Milwaukee Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, 23 people have died in domestic violence incidents in Milwaukee this year, compared to four last year at this time.
“Right now, we really do have to push prevention because we are self-destructing right now,” Sean Muhammad, with The Asha Project, said at the virtual event.
Gun sales have surged in Wisconsin, and research shows that when a domestic abuser has access to a gun, they are five times more likely to kill their female victim. There are currently gaps in Wisconsin law that give domestic abusers easy access to guns. Wisconsin lawmakers had the opportunity this session to take action to protect women and families by passing SB 517 and AB 577 – bills that have support from both sides of the aisle and would help keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers and other people with dangerous histories.
So far this year, Milwaukee has seen 54 homicides — double the number during the same period in 2019. Tragically, between April 5 and April 6, there were four separate shootings. In the last decade, gun homicides have increased 61 percent in Wisconsin, compared to an 18 percent increase nationwide. In Wisconsin, Black people are 26 times as likely as white people to die by gun homicide compared to 10 times as likely nationwide.
Much like gun violence, the coronavirus pandemic is also disproportionately affecting Black people in Milwaukee and around the country. Black people make up about one-third of Milwaukee County’s population, but account for nearly half of the coronavirus deaths. The long-term impacts of the pandemic and social distancing on gun violence are still to be seen, but one thing is clear: the continuing public health crisis of gun violence puts further strain on a medical system struggling to keep up with incoming COVID-19 cases.
Everytown for Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns released guidance for mayors on ways to prevent gun violence amid the coronavirus crisis – including supporting the essential work of community gun violence intervention programs so that necessary outreach and services can continue uninterrupted, and protecting families by ensuring continuity of services to victims of domestic violence.
In addition to gun violence happening in cities and domestic violence, suicide prevention hotlines are seeing an uptick in calls, and with more kids and teens at home, unsecured guns are raising concerns about increases in unintentional shootings and gun suicides.
Statistics about gun violence in Wisconsin are available here, and information on how Wisconsin’s gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here.
If you’re interested in learning more about gun violence during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to request an interview with a policy expert.