The Link Between Domestic Violence, Mass Shootings, and Gun Control in America
When Devin Kelley opened fire in a Texas church last Sunday killing 26 people and injuring countless others, the same question was on everyone’s mind; why? This question has been asked all too often lately. The growing trend of mass shootings in America has left everyone scrambling to find out just what creates the perpetrator of such a horrific act of violence. The sad fact is that we will likely never know. When looking at the average shooter, however, an alarming trend emerges. “The shooter is almost always male, and usually white. He has access to firearms. And often he has a history of domestic violence or violence against women” (Time.com) In fact, a study of mass shootings between 2009-2016, showed that an alarming 54% of them involved domestic violence in some way (Everytown for Gun Safety). The Texas Massacre only ads to this statistic with Kelley’s own history of spousal abuse. When looking at this trend, one is forced to ask; is domestic violence the missing link when it comes to mass shootings?
A thorough examination of recent, well-publicized mass shootings only further enhances this link between the shootings and domestic violence. Kelley had previously been court marshaled for spousal abuse while serving in the air force. Stephen Paddock, who killed 56 people in the Las Vegas in October, had a history of verbally abusing his girlfriend in public. Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the Pulse night club in Orlando Florida in June of 2016, physically abused his ex-wife while they were still married in 2009 (digg.com). The list sadly goes on. An NBC Think segment explained that “[Mass shooters] tend to have these notions of a woman’s traditional place, they tend to be rankled by women who speak out … These are people who want to exercise control over women” (themarysue.com).
In fact, there is an inextricable connection between domestic violence and gun violence in general. A family member or intimate partner is responsible for a staggering 52% of all female deaths by firearm. Everytown for Gun Safety has reported that when there is a gun present in the home, the risk of domestic violence becoming fatal “increases fivefold.” There is only one way to stop this; by having effective gun control laws aimed directly at abusers. “Cities in states that restrict access to firearms for those under domestic violence protective orders see a 25 percent reduction in intimate partner gun deaths” (Everytown for Gun Safety). So why has this issue not been properly addressed?
There currently is a federal law that prohibits abusers convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or those under certain orders of protection from purchasing or possessing guns. However, there are many holes in the law that leave it rather ineffective (Giffords Law Center). Just one of the many gaps is that the law does not apply to stalkers, either convicted or under an order of protection. This leaves many already at-risk victims even more vulnerable. The current law also does not require abusers to surrender the firearms they already own, leaving abusers free to keep what may be a host of weapons already in the home. Then there is the “Boyfriend Loophole.” This rather gaping hole in the federal statute stipulates that the law does not apply to abusers of who are or were not legally married to their victim. This gap in the law is particularly glaring. A staggering 69% of millennials in non-married relationships (Everytown For Gun Safety). This leaves a huge portion of intimate partners violence victims at risk of gun death.
The scary fact is that most future violence begins in the home. However, there are often early warning signs. It was just reported that Devin Kelley not only beat his wife but was also witnessed to have beaten and killed a dog way back in 2014. It is not uncommon for animal abuse to be the first sign of impending violent behavior (Newsweek.com). What seems to be just a minor animal abuse infraction may actually be warning us about a mass shooting down the road.
While the gaps in current federal gun laws make it clear that more targeted domestic violence gun control is one way to attack the issue, there is a simpler way to go about preventing mass shootings in America; speaking up. Do not stay silent if you see someone engaging in ANY act of violence. It may as simple as your witnessing the beating of a pet. But as the rallying cry goes; if you see something, say something. It works (New York Times).