Most people recognize domestic violence for what it is: an epidemic with broad, often fatal, consequences.
But almost as many – a number that unfortunately includes domestic victims — don’t make the undeniable connection between spouse abuse and access to handguns.
Studies show that half of domestic homicides are firearm-related, and on average, for three-quarters of the women killed, it was an intimate partner who pulled the trigger.
Research suggests that many victims of domestic violence weren’t even aware of the guns kept in their homes. A study from the University of North Carolina found that 80 percent of women living in families, including small children, reported that ownership, care, and storage of guns in the home was the sole responsibility of their male partners.
Meanwhile, recent moves to ease regulations that encourage gun safety in the home threaten much of the progress we’ve made in curbing domestic violence.
In November, the nation’s gun lobby attempted to overturn federal legislation that keeps firearms out of the hands of people convicted of domestic violence. And in North Carolina, Sen. Doug Berger introduced a measure to repeal the Sheriff’s permit required to own a handgun in the state. These permits — reviewed by local sheriffs– are among the strongest tools in preventing spouse abusers from legally owning guns.
Today is the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, appropriately highlighted by educational forums, news stories and vigils of remembrance.
It was with heartbreaking results that domestic violence once was shrugged off as a private matter best handled among families. It would be just as tragic not to recognize the effects of decisions that remove restrictions on those who should not be permitted to own firearms and that discourage safe gun storage.