After concerns arose about increased risk of domestic violence due to quarantines and pandemic stress -- and following a record-breaking month of firearm purchases -- the pro-gun website Bearing Arms suggested more guns could be used to fend off abusers even though years of evidence proves otherwise.
On April 4, Bearing Arms’ Tom Knighton published an article noting that “authorities in San Diego” are “bracing” for an uptick in domestic violence calls because people are required to stay in close quarters during a highly anxious and stressful time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Knighton wrote that while there is no excuse for getting physical with your partner, “the domestic violence problem will likely be sorted out quickly enough” if the victim has access to a firearm. He reminded readers that gun stores are considered “essential businesses in most states” and cautioned against letting “political rhetoric lead to you becoming a victim.”
In reality, there is no evidence to suggest introducing a firearm to a domestically violent home, as a means of self defense, makes the victim any safer. But there is plenty of evidence to show the contrary. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the states with the highest level of gun ownership also have a 65% higher rate of domestic violence homicide using a firearm. The risk is even greater if children are present, as “80 percent of child victims of mass shootings died in incidents connected to domestic or family violence.”
According to Giffords Law Center, domestic violence incidents involving a gun are 12 times more likely to result in death than those where a gun is not present. Firearms are used in almost half of all intimate partner homicides in the U.S., and nearly 1 million women alive today report having been either shot or shot at by an abusive partner.
A 2014 Atlantic article cited a study in The Journal of Trauma finding that more than twice as many women are killed with a gun used by their husbands or intimate partners than are killed by strangers using any type of weapon. The article pointed to another study of intimate partner violence which found, as The Atlantic explained it, that “16 percent of the women who had been abused, but not murdered, had guns in their homes, whereas 51 percent of the murder victims did.” Another study cited by The Atlantic “found that women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher rates than men,” further highlighting the overall dangerousness of introducing firearms into a home where there is domestic violence.
Simply put, women are “uniquely impacted by the availability of a firearm.”
Over the last month, multiple pro-gun blogs, including Bearing Arms, have positively covered the increase in gun purchases and new gun owners. In a March 27 article, Knighton questioned “how long our system could support us” and “how long before the sick started breaking quarantine to try and get food from their neighbors” and concluded that “people are making the right call” by stocking up on guns.
In a March 16 Ammoland post, David Codrea imagined the food supply dwindling during this pandemic before telling his readers the government is “utterly incapable of protecting them.” Articles in Breitbart and The Truth About Guns made similar points, saying that Americans realize “their safety, and their family’s safety, is in their own hands” and that “those vying to run the government vow to take that ability away,” all in a thinly veiled effort to encourage gun purchases.
It is no surprise that March 2020 broke the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s (NICS) all-time record for the number of background checks conducted in a single month. The FBI conducted 3.7 million checks, up 12% from during the previous record-holding month of December 2015.
During the same time period, law enforcement and nonprofits across the country have already seen, and are also bracing for, an increase in domestic violence calls. CNN reported that of 20 police departments serving large cities that provided statistics, “nine saw double-digit percentage jumps in domestic violence cases or 911 calls in March, either compared to the previous year or to earlier months in 2020.” Boston and Seattle saw 22% and 21% increases in domestic violence reports between March 2019 and March 2020, respectively.
Bearing Arms has used a common but false right-wing media narrative to spur fears and gun buying. But those extra guns -- whoever buys them -- will make women less safe.