October 6, 2020

Domestic Violence and Firearms

Firearms and Domestic Violence Can Be A Volatile And Lethal Mix

In a household where domestic violence is occurring, women are disproportionately affected by the presence of firearms.

Text reads: "The mere presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%"Spokane County has the highest reported rates of domestic violence in Washington State. Locally, it is estimated that Intimate Partner Domestic Violence (IPDV) affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men. While people of all gender identities and sexual orientations experience IPDV, women are statistically more likely to be abused and murdered by their male partners. Whether the firearm is owned by the abuser or survivor, the likelihood of the survivor being murdered is increased.

The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%.

According to research conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, “Over half of female victims of intimate partner homicide in the US are killed with a gun” and these numbers are on the rise.

In 2019, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that states with higher gun ownership levels had increased rates of intimate partner homicides. They found that firearm ownership was not correlated to higher non-domestic homicides (murders involving strangers, friends, acquaintances, etc.). Women are being disproportionately killed by guns.


Graph depicting that intimate partner homicides of women by guns are on the rise

Everytown for Gun Safety

Dr. Kivisto, professor at University of Indianapolis and lead author on the study, said, “Women are three in four victims of intimate partner homicide.”

Besides the higher homicide rate, firearms also create an environment of increased power and control. They can be used by perpetrators of domestic violence for intimidation and coercion & threats. The risk of violence against the survivor and others is real as domestic violence and firearms are often linked to mass shootings. Children, family, friends, coworkers, and law enforcement are also at increased risk of being involved and murdered during domestic violence altercations. In fact, many of the perpetrators of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. have “committed violence against women, threatened violence against women, or disparaged women” (Business Insider).

“In at least 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2018, the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member during the mass rampage,” according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

WA ST Require An Abusive Partner To Surrender All Weapons

Per Washington State and federal law, most protective orders require the abusive partner to surrender all weapons for safekeeping. Individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence cannot purchase, possess, or have access to firearms, dangerous weapons, and concealed pistol licenses. Individuals may regain access once the protection order has expired, if it is not renewed. Until then, they must comply with the order and surrender all firearms, dangerous weapons, and concealed pistol licenses to law enforcement where they will be properly boxed, tagged, and stored.

When law enforcement is dispatched to a domestic violence call, they are supposed to ask the survivor 11 questions as part of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP). LAP evaluates the lethality of the relationship by asking questions such as if the offender has ever threatened to use a weapon against them and if the offender has a gun or could obtain one. If the survivor’s responses indicate the relationship could be lethal, they are connected to a YWCA Spokane advocate by a police officer through our 24hr confidential helpline, 509-326-2255. Our advocate then conducts immediate safety planning, discusses emergency shelter options if appropriate, connects them to resources, and puts the LAP call into the database where it is flagged for follow up by one of our legal advocates.

This protocol ensures that survivors at a high lethality risk are connected to potentially life-saving resources. In 2018, YWCA Spokane received 1,410 phone calls from law enforcement who followed the Lethality Assessment Program.

“Every month, an average of 53 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner,” according to EverytownResearch.org.

Additional Resources

YWCA Spokane Is Here For You

If you or someone you know is impacted by intimate partner domestic violence, know that confidential advocates are always available through our 24hr helpline services by calling 509-326-2255, emailing help@ywcaspokane.org, or texting 509-220-3725.To learn more about accessing additional services through YWCA Spokane during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit ywcaspokane.org/services.

By: Jemma Riedel-Johnson

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