Well Past Time to Take Women Out From Under the Gun and Disarm Domestic Abusers

How Gun Violence Affects Women and Four Policy Solutions to Better Protect Them
Weak gun laws at the federal and state levels leave far too many women facing a fatal end to domestic abuse.

— by Arkadi Gerney and Chelsea Parsons  from the Center for American Progress

Violence against women looks very different than violence against men. Whether in the context of sexual assault on college campuses or in the military, violence by an intimate partner, or other types of violent victimization, women’s experiences of violence in this country are unique from those of men. One key difference in the violence committed against women in the United States is who commits it: Women are much more likely to be victimized by people they know, while men are more likely to be victims of violent crime at the hands of strangers. Between 2003 and 2012, 65 percent of female violent crime victims were targeted by someone they knew; only 34 percent of male violent crime victims knew their attackers. Intimate partners make up the majority of known assailants: During the same time period, 34 percent of all women murdered were killed by a male intimate partner, compared to the only 2.5 percent of male murder victims killed by a female intimate partner.

DomesticGunViolenceA staggering portion of violence against women is fatal, and a key driver of these homicides is access to guns. From 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the United States by an intimate partner using a gun—more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entirety of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Guns are used in fatal intimate partner violence more than any other weapon: Of all the women killed by intimate partners during this period, 55 percent were killed with guns. Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than are women in other high income countries.

Limiting abusers and stalkers’ access to firearms is therefore critical to reduce the number of women murdered in this country every year. This idea is not new: Congress first acted 20 years ago to strengthen our gun laws to prevent some domestic abusers from buying guns. But we are still a long way from having a comprehensive system of laws in place at both the federal and state levels that protect women—and children and men—from fatal violence in the context of intimate and domestic relationships. This report provides an overview of the data regarding the intersection of intimate partner violence and gun violence, describing four policies that states and the federal government should enact to reduce dangerous abusers’ access to guns and prevent murders of women:

  • Bar all convicted abusers, stalkers, and people subject to related restraining orders from possessing guns.
  • Provide all records of prohibited abusers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.
  • Require a background check for all gun sales.
  • Ensure that abusers surrender any firearms they own once they become prohibited.

Some states have already adopted some of these policies, and in the past 12 months, there has been a growing movement across the country to enact laws closing some gaps related to domestic abusers’ gun access in several states, including Wisconsin, Washington, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Minnesota.

This report collected and analyzed data from a variety of sources, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI; the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC; the Office of Violence Against Women; state criminal justice agencies; state domestic violence fatality review boards; and academic research. These data provide a snapshot of women’s experiences of violence in this country and show the glaring gaps in state and federal laws that leave victims of domestic violence and stalking vulnerable to gun violence. Many of these data have not been made public prior to the publication of this report and were collected through Freedom of Information Act requests. Among our findings:

  • In 15 states, more than 40 percent of all homicides of women in each state involved intimate partner violence. In 36 states, more than 50 percent of intimate partner-related homicides of women in each state involved a gun.
  • A review of conviction records in 20 states showed that there are at least 11,986 individuals across the country who have been convicted of misdemeanor-level stalking but are still permitted to possess guns under federal law. It is likely that there are tens of thousands of additional convicted stalkers who are able to buy guns.
  • While submission of records regarding convicted misdemeanant domestic abusers to the FBI’s NICS Index has increased 132 percent over the past five-and-a-half years, only three states appear to be submitting reasonably complete records—Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. Records from these three states account for 79 percent of the total records submitted to the FBI.

Every day in the United States, five women are murdered with guns. Many of these fatal shootings occur in the context of a domestic or intimate partner relationship. However, women are not the only victims. Shooters have often made children, police officers, and their broader communities additional targets of what begins as an intimate partner shooting. In fact, one study found that more than half of the mass shootings in recent years have started with or involved the shooting of an intimate partner or a family member. Enacting a comprehensive set of laws and enforcement strategies to disarm domestic abusers and stalkers will reduce the number of women who are murdered by abusers with guns—and it will make all Americans safer.

Arkadi Gerney is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Chelsea Parsons is Director of Crime and Firearms Policy at the Center.

Additional Resources:


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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#ItsNotUpToThem Week

— Roberta Lange, Nevada State Democratic Party Chair

A few weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court issued a backwards ruling that allows for-profit corporate CEOs to make medical decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor.  That’s right – in the year 2014, the Supreme Court thinks female employees’ healthcare decisions should be made in a corporate boardroom, not a doctor’s office.

This week, the United States Senate will vote on legislation to address the Supreme Court’s ruling and ensure women who work at for-profit corporations have access to reproductive healthcare.  While Democrats like Senator Reid, Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford, and Erin Bilbray support ensuring women have access to reproductive healthcare, Republicans like Dean Heller and Joe Heck have consistently voted to restrict women’s access to contraception.

In support of the Senate bill, Nevada Democrats are launching #ItsNotUpToThem week.  All week we will be highlighting how dangerous the Republican agenda is for the health of Nevada women.  Because whether it’s Mark Hutchison leading the charge to go back to a time where private insurance companies could treat being a woman as a pre-existing condition, or Joe Heck voting to weaken the Violence Against Women Act, it’s time we send a message to Nevada Republicans that women’s healthcare decisions aren’t up to them or corporate bosses.

Sign your name here to tell Republicans it’s 2014, not 1914.    


Please note that Roberta mentioned Candidate Erin Bilbray who is running agains Rep. Joe Heck, but failed to mention Candidate Kristen Spees who is running against Rep. Mark Amodei to represent those of us who are unfortunate enough to live in NV-Congressional District 2!

Reducing gun violence and protecting our kids

Most gun owners use their guns legally and responsibly, and the President strongly believes in an individual right to bear arms, but we need to take action to better protect our children and communities from tragic mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.

Measures Congress Should Take—

President Obama is asking Congress to urgently introduce legislation to:

  • Eliminate loopholes and require background checks for all gun sales
  • Reinstate the prohibition on high-capacity magazines
  • Renew and strengthen the ban on assault weapons
  • Create serious penalties for gun traffickers
  • Get armor-piercing bullets off the streets by prohibiting the possession and transfer of this dangerous ammunition
  • Keep 15,000 cops on the street
  • Further research on gun violence
  • Help schools develop and implement comprehensive emergency management plans
  • Remove restrictions that require ATF to authorize importation of dangerous weapons simply because of their age

Measures the President has Taken — Closing Background Check Loopholes

President Obama is committed to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and he has signed six executive actions that will:

  • Require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system
  • Address unnecessary legal barriers that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system
  • Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system
  • Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks
  • Propose rule-making to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun
  • Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers

Measures the President has Taken — Common sense steps to reduce gun violence

President Obama is not willing to wait for Congress to take action to reduce gun violence. On January 16th, 2013 he signed executive actions to introduce 11 common sense measures:

  • Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign
  • Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  • Require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations
  • Release a DOJ (Department of Justice) report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement
  • Nominate an ATF director
  • Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations
  • Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime
  • Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence
  • Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies
  • Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes
  • Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities

Measures the President has Taken — Making schools safer

At the heart of the President’s proposals to reduce gun violence is a focus on making sure our kids are safe. Through executive actions, President Obama will:

  • Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers
  • Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education

Measures the President has Taken — Increasing mental health services

“We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence—even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.” — President Obama

President Obama has moved swiftly to sign executive actions to:

  • Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover
  • Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges
  • Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations
  • Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health

How can YOU help — 3 Ways YOU Can Take Action Right Now

  1. Add your name. Show your support for President Obama’s plan to protect our kids and help reduce gun violence in America.
  2. Call the Senate and the House. Make sure your senators and representative knows you support President Obama’s plan and ask if he or she does too. You can use this simple script:

    Hi, My name is [your name] and I’m a voter in your [state or district]. I’m calling to let you know that I support President Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence and want to know whether [name of your senator or representative] does too?

  3. Spread the word. Make sure your friends and family know about the work President Obama is doing to keep our kids and communities safe: Share the President’s plan to reduce gun violence.