Gun Violence Prevention in Domestic Violence Can Start at an Early Age
A DCHS CONNECT FEATURE
August 20, 2021--Gun violence is on the rise in the United States. It claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and is on a track to brand this year as one of the deadliest in two decades, according to data published by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research organization.
Over the past several years, the majority of mass shootings—defined as incidents in which four or more people are shot and killed—were domestic violence-related and happened in private homes and nearly a quarter of the victims were children and teens. Other statistics show that every 16 hours, a woman in America is shot and killed by a current or former intimate partner and an analysis on official data concluded that offenders of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking accounted for 54% of all shooters.
“Some of these statistics are very alarming, and the numbers around gun violence and domestic and sexual violence are pretty scary,” said Debra Evans, Division Chief of the Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program at the City of Alexandria.
“We know guns are deadly, obviously. It can be used as a tool and tactic in domestic and sexual violence, and we know in domestic violence cases there are tons of guns involved, so if we can do anything to remove the weapons from a perpetrator that would be a good thing.”
Recognizing the connections between offenders of domestic violence and mass shootings prompted the enforcement of a federal law barring those convicted of domestic violence-related crimes from possessing guns. In recent years, many courts, when issuing permanent protective orders, communicate to the perpetrators that possession of firearms is illegal during the term of the ruling.
Supporters of gun ownership argue that protection and self-defense topped the list of reasons for possessing a handgun. However, evidence does not support the theory that introducing a firearm into volatile situations, for example where a history of domestic violence exists, makes victims or their families safer. On the contrary, gun access is the strongest risk factor for victims of domestic violence to be killed by an intimate partner.
“We already know that when there is a gun, regardless of who owns it, it makes it five times more likely that a victim will be killed,” Evans explained.
Recently, President Biden announced a comprehensive strategy to combat gun violence by implementing preventative measures to reduce violent crime and eliminate the root causes.
Evans recalled a story when the life of a woman was saved when an abuser lost access to a gun he threatened to use to kill her. She explained that abusers, in domestic and sexual violence cases, use weapons as a tactic to scare and thus control the victim.
One of Evans’s strongest beliefs is that education can play a significant role in preventing violence including violence related to families, particularly if it starts at an early age.
“The younger we can start developing assets the better. It is important to teach individuals that if you get mad at somebody, your first reaction should not be grabbing a gun,” Evans said.
For more information and resources visit the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence web page. We are here 24/7. Call us at 703.683.7273 (Sexual Assault Hotline) or 703.746.4911 (Domestic Violence Hotline).