Before I discuss domestic abuse and gun violence, I just want to start by saying that this article is not trying to take people’s second amendment rights away or infringe upon people’s freedoms. This article is solely about the relationship between domestic violence and gun violence because I believe this relationship is not brought up enough.
In the media, after a shooting or any incident of gun violence happens, the shooter(s)’s whole life is discussed: their family, friends, race, ethnicity, etc. Except, what I have noticed is that the shooter’s history of domestic violence (if they have one, and they usually do) is not brought up or used as a reason behind the shooting.
Domestic abuse is a type of violence that is hidden behind closed doors. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline defines it as “behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of domestic violence/abuse can be occurring at any one time within the same intimate relationship.”
In the United States, “1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner,” according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In a domestic violence situation, the presence of a gun increases the risk of homicide by 500%. In a survey done by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 67% of the respondents—whose abusers had access to firearms—believed that their abusers were capable of killing them. In the United States, women are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other high-income nations.
I know that was a lot of information and statistics that I just threw at you, but the point is that domestic violence is a huge problem and is made worse with the presence of a gun.
Along with domestic violence, gun violence is also an issue that is becoming more and more frequent.
The United States gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than in other high-income nations. In America, “firearms are the second leading cause of death for children and teens and the first leading cause of death for black children and teens.”
I am 18 years old and I have been alive for 8 of the 12 deadliest mass shootings in the U.S.
Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence
13 Killed – Columbine High School
Shooters had no known connection with domestic violence
13 (and an unborn child) Killed – Fort Hood, Texas
Shooter had no known connection with domestic violence
14 Killed – San Bernardino
Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters, grew up in an abusive home
17 Killed – Parkland
Nikolas Cruz was abusive towards his ex-girlfriend and his mother
18 Killed – UT Tower
Charles Whitman grew up with an abusive father, was abusive towards his wife, and on the day of the shooting, he murdered his wife and mother
21 Killed – San Ysidro, California
James Huberty was abusive towards his wife
23 Killed – Killeen, Texas
George Hennard had an intense hatred of women and had stalked two women prior to the shooting
25 (and an unborn child) Killed – Sutherland Springs
Devin Patrick Kelley was investigated for sexual assault and rape, he physically abused his first wife and fractured his toddler stepson’s skull
27 Killed – Sandy Hook
Adam Lanza, on the day of the shooting, shot his mother four times
32 Killed – Virginia Tech
Seung-Hui Cho photographed the legs of female students under their desks and was involved in three different stalking incidents
49 Killed – Orlando
Omar Mateen had an abusive father and was abusive towards both his first and second wife
58 Killed – Las Vegas
Stephen Paddock was verbally abusive towards his girlfriend
All of these shooters, except for two of them, had some connection with domestic violence whether it be verbal, physical, or they were victims of it themselves. In more than half of US mass shootings between 2009 and 2016, the shooter (who was almost always male) shot a current or former intimate partner or family member, according to Everytown.
Gun violence and gun control are always heated debates, but why do we never talk about the link between domestic violence and mass-murder?
I think it is because it’s easier to blame race or religion than it is to blame gender. No, I am not saying that all men are domestic abusers and are going to commit mass murder. I am saying that there is a cycle of male dominance that lets men feel entitled to get whatever they want. And when they don’t, they are allowed to be angry and aggressive.
Nikolas Cruz was allowed to be angry because his girlfriend dumped him and he was allowed to turn that anger into revenge because, in his mind, he was the victim. He was allowed to purchase those firearms and kill seventeen people.
“The eternal subtext of acts of mass violence is toxic masculinity.”
We have to stop viewing domestic violence as a private affair and instead see it as a public health issue. Until we treat domestic violence as its own serious problem and not just a red flag of future violence, these horrific events will keep happening.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1+800-799-7233.