Domestic Violence Prevention Goes Hand-in-Hand with Gun Control

According to interpretations of available data, humanity is living in what some call “the long peace.” In the United States specifically, multiple kinds of violent and property crimes are in a long decline as well. In many ways, modern life is much safer than many of us may give it credit for.

Some types of violence, however, are extremely difficult to permanently root out. Domestic violence is one of these. And as we’ll see, domestic violence has an unfortunate habit of dovetailing with gun violence. We will also see how the presence of guns encourages acts of violence.

The relationship between domestic violence and gun violence is one reason activist groups from all over the U.S. are calling on the government to pass stronger gun control legislation. One of these groups, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, represents thousands of programs from across the country that are engaged with our communities to raise awareness of, educate about and help curb rates of domestic violence.

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AR-15 rifles are displayed on the exhibit floor during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Friday, May 20, 2016. Photographer: Luke Sharrett

What’s the Connection Between Domestic Violence and Guns?

Gun violence — including domestic violence that ends in gun violence — happens where guns are most prevalent. This is one aspect of safety that lags badly behind in the United States, in this age which some call “the long peace.” It makes the U.S. unique in the developed world for an ugly reason. And looking at it honestly won’t help make the case for more guns. Quite the contrary.

There’s no way around America’s statistics on gun deaths, no matter how much safer the world is today, on average, than when we roamed in tribes:

Some politicians misquote or misinterpret this figure as applying to the entire world. It only applies to high-income countries. But that only makes it more embarrassing and tragic — America is one of the richest countries that has ever existed. And we kill each other with guns in greater numbers than any other similarly “civilized” or “rich” country.

It is true, as gun rights activists often point out, that “people kill people.” But it’s intellectually dishonest not to follow that thought to its logical conclusion. When “people kill people,” it is because a person has made a choice to kill. And then they made a second choice, which was to use a gun as the tool to get it done.

It is time to take these “tools” out of the hands of people who are likely to misuse them. This means starting by taking a harder stance on known domestic abusers and other public nuisances having access to, or the right to purchase, a specific kind of deadly tool.

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Why Guns Fuel Domestic Violence of All Kinds

When domestic or sexual violence occurs, it’s the result of one person trying to establish dominance over another. In other words, it’s often about attitude — a person feels that they are superior. A similar mindset applies to racism, xenophobia, homophobia and more. When the individuals who exhibit these mindsets obtain a gun, they become even more potentially dangerous.

Unfortunately, law-abiding gun owners who use their weapons for practical purposes (or not at all) are not the ones drawing the ire of these groups. When it comes to light that a cop has murdered an unarmed citizen, and later that that same cop had a known history of domestic violence, it is worth questioning which of us have earned the privilege of owning a deadly weapon, on-duty and otherwise, and which have not.

Research has for years suggested that domestic violence is as much as four-times higher in the policing and law enforcement community than in mainstream America.

And as any number of recent headlines can attest, “domestic violence” shouldn’t be something we just associate with our own homes. Domestic violence manifests in America and elsewhere along many gender, ideological and racial lines. It is still one of the top major causes of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States today, and has been for over twenty years.

If xenophobia and misogyny and physical and verbal assault in our grade schools is on the rise in America, it is because Americans excel at choosing poor role models. And it’s because we are dragging our feet on making a compromise to uphold legal gun ownership while curtailing access to guns for persons convicted of or likely to commit domestic abuse or violent or hate-based crimes.

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Guns Are Everybody’s Problem

If we are to live and work alongside guns for all time, and insist that they are “tools” and not “force made manifest,” then everybody on Earth deserves a right to help decide who gets to use those tools. We do the same for people who desire to operate automobiles and forklifts. And both of those are deadly, too.

In the gun control debate and every other way, we have been failing the victims of domestic violence — whether they are the wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends who stay in abusive relationships or another silent (or not so silent) victim of hate and cruelty.

We can commiserate with these people all we like when tragedy strikes, and somehow keep pretending the shooters and abusers were unmotivated and unmoved by anything other than “anger problems” and mental health issues. Indeed, the CDC says half of all females killed in homicides are killed by their significant others.

As of August, there had been more mass shootings than days in the U.S. It’s far past time to redress that unique American failure. But not every victim of violent crime makes the front page of your personalized news feed. In fact, it’s not even close.

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