The Scary Truth About Gun Violence and American Women

It seems rare that you’ll check the news and find a comforting headline awaiting you lately. Over the last few years, America has seen some of our modern history’s deadliest shootings. This has led to a controversial debate on gun control and what Americans can do to prevent these horrific tragedies.

Everytown, a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence, found a shocking correlation between gun violence and American women. These stories and statistics of gun violence reveal the truth about gun violence that affects women nationwide.

Nearly 4.5 million American women report being threatened with firearms

couple arguing

A startling amount of women have been threatened by their partner. |

The multitude of women who report being threatened with firearms by their significant others is terrifying. The University of Pennsylvania’s Susan Sorenson and Rebecca Schut conducted a study on Nonfatal Gun Use in Intimate Partner Violence.

They determined that while the number of women who were killed at the hands of their partner’s guns is in the hundreds, millions of women in America have been threatened by an intimate partner. “If the gun is simply displayed in a hostile way, it can create an ongoing environment of threat and intimidation,” Sorenson said. “It can facilitate chronic, ongoing, physical — as well as sexual and psychological — abuse.”

Homicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women ages 18-44

Handgun on table

A large demographic of women are more likely to die from homicide than stroke. | Cas Photography/iStock/Getty Images

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report that found something highly concerning for American women ages 18 to 44. Homicide is the fifth leading cause of death for this demographic, below heart disease and above stroke.

The findings from this study of female homicides indicate that young women, particularly racial/ethnic minority women, were disproportionately affected. Over half of female homicides for which circumstances were known were related to intimate partner violence (IPV), regardless of their ethnicity. More than 90% of the women were killed by their current or former intimate partner.

American women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed countries

a display of assault rifles on a wood wall beneath an American flag

The amount of gun violence in America is directly linked to loose gun laws. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Everytown found that American women are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed than women in other developed countries. The website stated that the high rate of domestic violence deaths in American, “is directly related to our weak gun laws.”

This issue doesn’t affect women alone. A study that compared the U.S. to other high-income OECD countries found that America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than the other researched countries. Other developed countries like the U.K., Japan, and Australia took steps to regulate gun ownership after mass shootings similar to those in the U.S.

54% of mass shooters in the U.S. killed their intimate partners or family members

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A lot of mass shooters kill someone in their family. | vadim guzhva/Getty Images

Everytown found that in 54% of mass shootings, the killer murdered a partner or close family member along with the other victims. Every month, 50 women are shot and killed in the U.S. by a current or former boyfriend or spouse.

Jody Lee Hunt, the West Virginia towing business owner, shot and killed four people including his ex-girlfriend Sharon Kay Berkshire, before committing suicide. Berkshire had filed domestic violence charges a month before the shootings. Hunt had already served time for kidnapping another ex-girlfriend at gunpoint.

42% of mass shootings were preceded by at least one ‘red flag’ incident

rows of guns in the UK

A high percentage of mass shootings can be predicted. | Scott Barbour/Getty Images.

Everytown for Gun Safety found that 42% of mass shootings were predicted by at least concerning one incident that should have acted as a “red flag” on the offender. These red flags included (attempted) acts or threats of violence towards oneself or others, violations of protective orders, or evidence of ongoing substance abuse.

Devin Kelley, the shooter who killed 26 and injured 20 in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, exhibited a red flag. Kelley had a history as a domestic abuser. “While serving in the Air Force, he was court-martialed on charges of domestic assault after he beat, choked and threatened his wife with a gun …” Valentina Zarya wrote for Fortune.

These highly-publicized mass shootings all had the same correlation

Violence Prevention sign

Can you guess what mass shooters typically have in common? | PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

The media covers the perpetrator, victims, and suspected motivation for mass shootings. However, an incident’s ties to domestic violence aren’t nearly as publicized. The Las Vegas concert, Texas church, and Fort Lauderdale airport shootings all had one thing in common; their killers all had a history of domestic violence.

Omar Mateen, the shooter who opened fire in Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killed 49 people and injured 53 others. His wife at the time of the shooting, Noor Salman, told The New York Times that Mateen beat her and threatened to kill her. Mateen’s ex-wife described him as a physically violent man.

How we can prevent future attacks

guns in holsters

Gun laws have a lot of loop holes. | Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Federal law prohibits spouses as well as certain partners who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from possessing firearms. However, as Everytown points out, without analogous state laws, state/local officials can’t enforce the federal prohibitions against domestic abusers.

Monica McLaughlin, deputy director of Public Policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told NBC News her view on confiscating the mass murderers’ guns. She felt that perpetrators’ guns should be confiscated following an arrest for domestic violence. rather than just after they’re convicted. “We also need law enforcement response that believes survivors, that responds to the calls for help,” McLaughlin said.

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