But what Johnson didn’t mention is the deadly correlation between domestic abuse and gun violence that claims the lives of hundreds of women every year.
The statistics speak for themselves: on average, 46 women in America are shot to death each month by a current or former husband or boyfriend. What’s more, American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries. Over the past 25 years, more intimate partner homicides in the U.S. have been committed with guns than with all other means combined.
And in April, the gun lobby waged a fearsome campaign to defeat the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey amendment, a provision that would have closed dangerous loopholes that allow domestic abusers to buy guns without background checks – despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans support this common-sense measure. We must continue to urge lawmakers to support responsible laws that will keep domestic violence abusers from thumbing their nose at Congress and making an end-run around our laws.
That end-run is all too easy to make. There are countless domestic abusers who are already prohibited by law from owning or possessing a firearm, but who are nonetheless able to purchase a handgun with the click of a button from an online seller on Armslist.com – the Craigslist for guns. No background check, no paperwork, no questions asked. And the consequences continue to be deadly.
We have already decided as a country that certain dangerous people should not have access to weapons, but largely because the Washington gun lobby has fought tooth-and-nail against background checks, abusers continue to buy guns with total anonymity online and at gun shows. In fact, an investigation released two weeks ago by the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that one in 30 online gun buyers have a criminal history that legally prohibits them from possessing a firearm.
The NRA claims background checks don’t work, but we have evidence that stronger background check laws correlate directly with the safety of women.
Consider that in the 14 states that require background checks on all gun sales, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by an intimate partner. Since 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has blocked more than 2 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers, including more than 250,000 gun sales to domestic abusers, no doubt saving thousands of lives.
We know, thankfully, that not every instance of domestic violence involves a gun. But the presence of a gun in the home where there is domestic violence makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. The simple truth is that we can do so much more. If we can stop a gun from falling into an abuser’s hands at the point of sale, then we can keep many more women out of harm’s way.
Enough distorting the debate with unsubstantiated fears about burdening law-abiding citizens. We can and we must do more to protect vulnerable victims of abuse and their children. Both the NRA and large majorities of Congress recognize the critical need to protect victims of abuse, and we urge them to stand with us in supporting common-sense background checks.
Gandy is president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.