Intimate partner violence and gun violence in the US are inextricably linked, impacting millions of women, families, and communities across the country. Abusers with firearms are five times more likely to kill their victims, and guns further exacerbate the power and control dynamic used by abusers to inflict emotional abuse and exert coercive control over their victims.
Every month, an average of 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner. Nearly one million women alive today have reported being shot or shot at by intimate partners, and four and a half million women have reported being threatened with a gun by an intimate partner. In more than half of mass shootings over the past decade, the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member as part of the rampage. The ripple effects of firearms in the hands of an abuser extend far beyond the intimate relationship— affecting children who witness or live with it and the family members, coworkers, and law enforcement officers who respond to it.
While the deadly intersection of guns and intimate partner violence affects all women, it has a disproportionate impact on Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic women. In addition, segments of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities are highly vulnerable to severe forms of relationship abuse, but there is alarmingly little data on the intersection of firearms and intimate partner violence among these populations because of chronic underreporting.
While intimate partner violence involving guns presents a bleak problem, research shows that the following federal and state policies and practices that disrupt abusers’ access to guns can save lives.
- Strengthening state laws prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing guns and requiring abusers to relinquish guns they already have.
- Focusing on implementing and enforcing existing state firearm relinquishment laws by state and local courts and law enforcement agencies.
- Strengthening the federal background check system to keep guns out of dangerous hands by closing deadly loopholes and addressing deficiencies including:
- The Boyfriend Loophole, which allows abusers to purchase and possess guns even if they have been convicted of abuse or are under a restraining order for abusing a dating partner.
- The Charleston Loophole, which permits abusers to purchase guns without a completed background check if their background check isn’t completed in three business days.
- The Unlicensed Sale Loophole, which allows abusers to purchase guns from unlicensed, private sellers without a background check.
- Improving Civil and Criminal Domestic Violence Records, which calls for stronger safeguards in the background check system.
- Requiring dealers to notify state or local law enforcement when a domestic abuser or convicted stalker attempts to buy a gun and fails a background check.
- Funding comprehensive research on the nexus of guns and intimate partner violence.