Guns Make Domestic Violence Deadlier

Conservative Media Attack Gun Safety Proposals That Keep Women Safe

When guns are involved in domestic violence, women die.

This simple fact was the basis for a tweet from Everytown for Gun Safety, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's new gun violence prevention group, which noted that the presence of a gun makes it five times “more likely that domestic violence will turn into murder.” Everytown has stated that they want to help prevent these deaths by closing “the loopholes that make it easy for domestic abusers to get guns without a background check.” While federal law prohibits a convicted domestic abuser or individual subject to a permanent restraining order from owning a gun, abusers subject to temporary restraining orders can still buy firearms in many states, and abusers can avoid background checks by purchasing their firearms through private sales. 

But conservative media ignored these facts to falsely claim Everytown wanted to “disarm women,” not their abusers, and argued women would be safer if they had increased access to guns to use as self-defense.'s AWR Hawkins wrote that Everytown was putting victims in danger because “the gun may be the only thing that gives the victim of abuse a fighting chance of survival.” Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich told NRA News that the gun safety group was playing on the fears of “ignorant, emotional women.” And former Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller claimed on Fox that all of Everytown's gun safety efforts were merely an effort “to lure in women voters,” arguing that because gun murders are down, it was somehow impossible that domestic murder could be a significant problem facing women.

But the data shows that Everytown is right. Having a gun in the house doesn't make women safer -- in fact, studies have shown that domestic violence involving guns is significantly more likely to result in women dying.

Very few women successfully use guns to defend themselves against domestic violence attacks. One study found that more than 70 percent of women at battered women's shelters had been attacked or threatened with a gun by their intimate partner. Only 7 percent had used a gun successfully in self-defense. As The Atlantic noted:

[N]ot a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership.

In fact, research from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, one of the groups joining Everytown, found that the presence of a firearm in a domestic violence situation increased the risk of homicide by 500 percent for women. A September 2013 Violence Policy Center study called “When Men Murder Women” found that women were more than three times more likely to be murdered when there was a gun in their household, even when domestic abuse wasn't a factor. Black women are two and a half times more likely to be murdered by a gun than white women, and a majority are killed by intimate partners. In fact, “More than twice as many women are killed with a gun used by their husbands or intimate acquaintances than are murdered by strangers using guns, knives, or any other means,” according to a study published in the Journal of Trauma by the RAND Institute of Health.

These findings remain true across states and when controlling for other factors. A study from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that the more guns there are in a state, the more likely women are to die violent deaths, from unintentional shootings, suicides, and homicides. The Atlantic reported that this is true “even after controlling for factors such as urbanization, alcohol use, education, poverty, and divorce rates.”

Women are less safe when they live in a house with a gun, they're less safe when they live in states with more guns, they're less safe when they live in the United States, period. Women in this country represent 84 percent of all female firearm homicides throughout the developed world, a finding that is clearly linked to the prevalence of guns.

To make matters worse, the NRA has opposed legal efforts to keep guns away from domestic abusers -- the policies Everytown supports. In theory, federal law prohibits individuals from owning a gun when they've been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or are subject to a permanent restraining order, but in many states there are few enforcement mechanisms available to get the gun out of the hands of abusers. The NRA has opposed new efforts to ban abusers from keeping their guns, leaving women's lives in danger from known threats, and conservative media figures have defended them along the way.

Each minute, 24 people are the victims of domestic violence. On average three or more women are murdered by their husbands and boyfriends every day, and one in four women have been the victim of severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime -- that's roughly 40 million women.

Everytown isn't putting these millions of women in danger. Conservative media are, by advocating for increased access to the weapons used to target and abuse women every single day.