Protecting Domestic Violence Victims from Guns
This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing called VAWA Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence. Greater attention paid to the intersection between gun violence and domestic violence will hopefully lead to better protections for women from domestic violence, and help end the scourge of gun violence in our country.
Some statistics from the hearing:
- Women are 11 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in any other western country;
- Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a gun;
- In 2011, nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners.
In main, the hearing addressed two important bills that would protect women from domestic abusers and stalkers. S. 1290—Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act—introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (of the great state of Minnesota – my home state) would expand the definition of “intimate partners” used to ban criminals from purchasing or possessing guns to include dating partners or former dating partners. The bill would use the same definition as the Violence Against Women Act – someone who has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the abuser. Currently, dating partners are responsible for nearly half of intimate partner homicides, but victims have no legal avenue to protect themselves from dating partners with guns (i.e. a restraining order, or stopping a gun purchase).
The bill also adds convicted stalkers to the list of those prohibited from purchasing and possessing guns. This is a crucial preventative step given that 76% of murdered domestic violence victims are first stalked by their killer.
The second bill, S.2483—the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act—introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal would close a loophole that allows domestic abusers to purchase and possess guns when they are under a temporary restraining order. Currently, only those under a permanent restraining order (for which a temporary restraining order is often a prerequisite) are preventing from buying and owning guns. These two bills are complementary and crucial steps towards reducing violence against women in America.
Violence committed against women and girls is an affront to the Jewish belief in the fundamental dignity of every individual and an abhorrent violation of the sanctity and wholeness of the body and health of another person. Furthermore, when the wellbeing of another is at risk we are commanded to take action to prevent harm, for we are taught that we must not “stand idly by the blood of a neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16).