By Brina Milikowsky
Office of the Mayor of New York City and Mayors Against Illegal Guns
By the time we finish marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 46 women will have been shot to death by a current or former intimate partner in October alone. It’s a disturbing and sadly all too common reality — but there’s meaningful action our lawmakers can take to reduce the bloodshed and save women’s lives.
Women in the United States are killed at alarming rates by their boyfriends and husbands, and this violence is directly linked to the current state of gun laws in America. With loopholes that openly provide dangerous people with easy access to guns, our laws are making it easier than ever for domestic abusers to arm themselves.
And the consequences for America’s women have been deadly.
- Women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than their counterparts in other high-income countries.
- The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations makes it five times more likely that women will be shot and killed.
- Over the past 25 years, more intimate partner homicides in the U.S. have been committed with guns than with all other weapons combined.
These numbers tell a tragic story – one that frequently goes overlooked in the context of domestic violence. While it’s critical for us to do everything we can to prevent the abuse and battering that far too many women suffer every day, it’s equally important that we address our loose gun laws to ensure this violence doesn’t escalate and, worse, result in deadly travesties.
That’s why, working with domestic violence prevention advocates nationwide, our bipartisan coalition of more than 1,000 U.S. mayors continues to push for tougher laws that will help prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Our top legislative priority – comprehensive and enforceable background checks – is a proven measure that we know saves lives.
In the states that go beyond federal law to require background checks for all handgun sales, there are 38 percent fewer women shot to death by intimate partners. And since its creation in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has blocked more than 2 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers – including more than 250,000 gun sales to domestic abusers.
But because these checks are only required for gun sales at licensed gun dealers, batterers, stalkers, rapists, and other sex offenders can easily acquire guns with no background check and no questions asked. All they have to do is find a private seller at a gun show or over the Internet. Closing this loophole and requiring background checks for all gun sales would be a huge step forward for public safety – and this common-sense measure is supported by more than 90% of the American people, including 82% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members.
Unfortunately, in April, a minority of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate voted to block bipartisan background check legislation sponsored by NRA A-rated Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). The Manchin-Toomey amendment would have extended background checks to cover private gun sales in commercial settings, helping to close some deadly loopholes and reduce the scourge of gun deaths in America.
Yet a minority of senators sided with the Washington gun lobby instead of the American people, only to find out that there is a price to be paid for voting against the will of your constituents.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, domestic violence prevention advocates, and Americans nationwide are committed to the push for sane gun laws, and we will continue to shine a spotlight on the devastating relationship between domestic abuse and gun violence in our country.
For the sake of women across the country, it’s time for our leaders in Congress to put public safety before politics and support comprehensive background checks legislation. Doing so will help save countless lives – and stem the tide of violence against women in America.
Brina Milikowsky works as a Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel in the Office of the Mayor of New York City and as an advisor for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 1,000 mayors nationwide and the country’s largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization.
This post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2013 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ywcaWWV.