A Letter from the Director of the Safer Families, Safer Communities Project

We at Safer Families, Safer Communities find ourselves once again observing the national media focus on firearms and domestic violence.  While it is true that having the nation’s attention drawn toward this issue can be seen as a positive trend, unfortunately once again the cost is simply too high in terms of human suffering.

We hope that someday soon a sustainable dialogue around solutions to the domestic violence and firearms crisis can be held. To that end, we bring you informative articles about teen dating violence and firearms, children and gun violence, research on reducing incidents of Intimate Partner Homicide, and news about our developing Crisis Response Team. 

-David W Keck, JD, Project Director of the National Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms  

Firearms and Teen Dating Violence

The entire country has been reflecting on the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, mourning the loss of the 17 lives taken by violence, including those of 14 teen-aged children. All of us at the Battered Women’s Justice Project and the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms mourn the lives lost, as well as the lives of family members, friends, and classmates forever changed. Notably, February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: a time for professionals and the public to reflect on our collective responsibility to minimize the impact of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) on teenagers and the generations that will follow. This February the reflection likely included consideration of the role firearms play in teen dating violence, as well as in IPV generally.

The shooter in Florida is described as someone who abused his teenage girlfriend and stalked another teen-aged classmate. His history of violence against girls is not unusual for a perpetrator of mass violence: 54% of mass shootings between 2009-2016 involved the shooting of an intimate partner or family member. Domestic violence was allegedly a contributing factor in about 20% of mass public shootings. In some cases, offenders were able to purchase a firearm, or allowed to keep firearms already in their possession, and commit mass murder, even though they had previously had domestic violence restraining orders filed against them, or had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, both prohibiting factors under federal law with regard to firearms possession and transfer. In addition, the lethal combination of IPV and firearms is well documented: the presence of a firearm in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide of women by 500 percent.

To read more, click here.

Children, Domestic Violence, and Guns

The negative consequences of domestic violence are not only felt by a batterer’s intimate partner; they are also felt by the children who see, hear, or are otherwise affected by the abuse of a parent or are themselves directly abused. It is estimated that child abuse co-occurs with domestic violence in 30 to 60 percent of households with children in which domestic violence occurs. In extreme cases, children are witnesses to the violent death of a parent or are killed.

This paper presents research evidence on the intersection of firearm use in domestic violence and the presence of children. It discusses threats against children, murders of children, and the psychological impacts to surviving children. While any domestic violence witnessed by a child can be damaging, and any threats or violence against children decreases their safety and is detrimental to their lives, the involvement of guns in these acts may make them particularly harmful due to a gun’s lethality and ability to engender fear. It is therefore worth specifically examining the intersection of children, domestic violence, and guns.

To read more, click here.

Study Suggests Greater Reductions in IPH Possible

A recent study offers further promise to reduce the incidence of intimate partner homicide (IPH) through firearms restrictions. The study, “Analysis of the Strength of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Their Association with Intimate Partner Violence,” identifies specific areas where firearms prohibitions can be expanded to reduce IPH. The authors (April M. Zeoli, Alexander McCourt, Shani Buggs, Shannon Frattaroli, David Lilley, and Daniel W. Webster) analyzed statistics compiled over a 34-year span of time.

Not surprisingly, the general observation is that firearms restrictions that impact a broader section of the population are more effective. Specifically, laws that extend firearms restrictions to dating partners, those that apply at the ex parte stage of a domestic violence protective order, and those that restrict individuals convicted of any violent misdemeanor, even if not domestic-related, achieved the greatest reduction in IPH. These findings suggest that firearms restrictions are not only effective, but that they can be strengthened through evidence-based, targeted application.

To read more, click here.

The Safer Families, Safer Communities Project Seeks Your Input!

Has your community or jurisdiction suffered a domestic violence-related firearm homicide in the past five years? If so, staff at the Battered Women’s Justice Project’s Safer Families, Safer Communities, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms, would like to hear from you about your community’s experiences healing from such a tragedy.

Safer Families, Safer Communities supports comprehensive implementation and enforcement of domestic violence (DV) firearm prohibitions at all levels of government; the project is currently seeking input and guidance from advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, probation/parole officers or others who are involved in the criminal legal system’s response DV-related homicides. Project staff seek to understand how departments, agencies, and other entities currently respond to DV homicides, particularly those committed with firearms. Specifically, we would like to know what resources were most helpful in the aftermath of the homicide, what resources you needed but did not have access to, and if you would be willing to share your experience with other communities.

Persons interested in speaking with our staff should contact Marijka Muras, Training and Technical Assistance Specialist with BWJP at 612-824-8768 x 113 or mmuras@bwjp.org.

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Funding for this newsletter was made available through the US Department of Health and Human Services, Grant #90EV0440 and the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice Grant #2013-TA-AX-K037. The viewpoints contained in this document are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not represent the official views or policies of the department and do not in any way constitute an endorsement by the Department of Health and Human Services or the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.