by Qudsia Raja
YWCA USA Advocacy and Policy Manager
Growing up, I remember playing the association game with my friends — the premise is exactly what it sounds like: name the first thing that comes to mind when you hear a particular word. Banana. Pajamas. Clouds. Care Bears. They all may seem like random, disconnected words at first glance, but dig a bit deeper into my 8-year-old brain and the connection will probably become more apparent.
As an adult, I still play this game, albeit subconsciously. Years of working in the field of domestic violence has resulted in me applying a gender lens to much of what I consume — from pop culture to social norms to the news. I am the woman that The Onion wrote about in this classic piece on the inability of feminists to “do without” their principled stances in order to enjoy 30 minutes of mind numbing television — often chock full of misogyny. A commercial about yogurt is never just about yogurt — it’s about women’s body image, perpetuating the beauty myth, and the idea that women can have it all. A news cycle on Marco Rubio’s shoes is never just about Marco Rubio’s shoes — it’s about heteronormative narratives on masculinity and using implicit sexist and homophobic slurs as a tool to make him seem less aligned with his conservative political leaning.
And, to me, a news story about a shooting is never just that – it’s about federal gun laws that aren’t enforced, weak background check laws, and domestic violence. In fact, any time I come across a story about a shooting, the first thought that comes to mind is, “Does he have a history of abuse?”
Surprised by this association? You shouldn’t be. Advocates that work in the field of domestic violence are keenly aware of a stark reality:
- If you’re a woman living in the U.S., you are 11 times more likely to die from gun violence than in any other developed nation.
- Abusers with access to guns are 5-8 times more likely to kill their partners than those without access to guns.
- Over half of all female homicides are committed with the use of a gun.
- Guns are the weapon of choice by most perpetrators of domestic violence; 55% of all women killed by guns are murdered by a current or former partner.
Since the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, Congress has stalled passing common-sense gun legislation that could close key loopholes to help reduce gun related domestic-violence homicides and save countless lives. This comes at a great cost — three women are murdered with the use of guns by their current or former partners every day.
This week, President Obama made the critical connection between domestic violence and increased lethality risks when a gun is part of the equation. Namely, the President’s actions will strengthen background check systems so that the current laws work as intended — ensuring that domestic violence abusers are unable to purchase firearms. They will also incentivize states to strengthen NICS records by including more detailed information about domestic-violence misdemeanors and improving upon their system of notifying local law enforcement when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a gun. Why is this a big deal? Because in states that require background checks for all gun purchases, 46% fewer women were shot to death by their partners.
Of course, the work doesn’t end here. Here’s what we hope to see in the coming year:
- Passage of common-sense gun legislation that protects victims of domestic violence by closing key loopholes in federal gun laws such as including dating partners and convicted stalkers in the definition of “intimate partner”
- While we wait on Congress, we look forward to seeing more bills on gun violence prevention passed on the state level, such as in Washington and North Carolina
- A reduction in domestic-violence homicides through increased enforcement of federal gun laws and immediate removal of guns from the hands of abusers.
YWCA thanks the Administration for its bold action on gun violence prevention. To hear the President make the connection between gun violence and domestic violence on national television and commit to taking action was incredibly powerful and affirming of the work that domestic violence advocates have been doing for decades. We now look to Congress to take up the mantle and save the lives of even more women.