Here we are again. In the wake of yet another tragic mass shooting, people who have opinions about guns are starting up their arguments again. We need stricter gun control laws! Don’t challenge my right to own assault weapons! More thorough screenings and waiting periods could help prevent future shootings, and may have helped prevent this one. If only other people in the theater had been armed, he could have been stopped sooner.
I happen to fall on the side of advocating for stricter gun control laws, because I believe that there is absolutely no reason for these kinds of things to happen over and over and over again. I don’t see why gun advocates feel the need to fight for everyone’s right to have an assault rifle. Why should an AK-47 be available outside of a military context?
But apart from my concerns about the roles of gun control activists and the NRA lobbyists in these types of mass shootings, I am very concerned about the type of everyday gun violence perpetrated against women that is allowed to continue unabated because of our lax gun laws. And before you tell me about how people with domestic violence convictions aren’t allowed to purchase guns, a 2002 Government Accountability Office report found that between 1998 and 2001, there were more than 2,800 people with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions who were able to purchase guns without being caught by the National Instant Criminal Background System.
When most of us think about how intimate partner violence is carried out, we generally don’t think about women being shot. We think about hitting, shoving, slapping, pushing. Maybe we think about choking or sexual violence. We usually don’t think about shootings, though. But the fact is that of all women who are killed by guns, about two-thirds of those are killed by an intimate partner. And, a 2003 study found that access to guns increases the risk of intimate partner homicide five-fold compared to instances where there are no weapons (and guns are the most frequently used weapons in intimate partner homicide, far exceeding the rate of use of all other types of weapons combined.)
Having a gun in the home is risky for women, and even riskier if there is a history of domestic violence. While having a gun in the home is linked to a 3-fold risk of homicide in the home generally, that risk increases to 8-fold when there is an intimate partner involved and 20-fold when there is a history of domestic violence. These numbers are unacceptable, and if we are committed to protecting women from violence at the hand of an intimate partner, we must commit to reforming our nation’s gun control laws.
I have no desire to take away a law-abiding citizen’s right to defend himself and his home from an intruder or to go hunting. But you don’t need access to an assault rifle to fend off burglars or to take down Bambi. When NRA lobbyists and ordinary gun rights activists fight against laws for background checks, waiting periods, and other proposals, what they are fighting for is a lunatic’s right to shoot up a movie theater. Moreover, they are fighting for the rights of men that don’t necessarily appear unstable to kill women.
James Eagan Holmes killed 12 people last night. More than three women are killed every day by an intimate partner in the United States. If we want this to stop, reforming our gun control laws is essential.