Today marks the one year anniversary of the historic Women’s March on Washington — the beginning of a grassroots movement for change, a strong rebuke of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE and his oppressive philosophy, and a message to people across the world: we will not succumb to fear. The march didn’t focus on one particular issue or topic; rather, it was a platform for women from all walks of life to raise their voices about issues that matter to them.
Within the last year, we have seen sustained energy surrounding issues that were well-represented at the march, including reproductive rights, immigration, income inequality, police brutality, and others. But one issue that was not as prominent at last year’s march has emerged as a dark horse in the movement: gun violence prevention.
Women in abusive relationships know just how terrifying a gun in the home can be. Abusers often use guns to intimidate women into submission, threaten them, and coerce them into remaining in abusive relationships. Far too often, this manipulation becomes deadly; in the United States, an American woman is shot and killed by her intimate partner every 16 hours.
Though domestic violence of any kind poses a serious threat to the women involved, when an abusive partner has access to a gun, the risk the non-abusive partner will die increases more than five-fold. Domestic violence also disproportionately affects women of color. In 2014, black women were murdered at a rate more than twice as high as white women.
Though most acts of abuse occur behind closed doors, domestic violence sometimes spills out of the home and into the public. In the past year, we have seen armed abusers inflict multiple casualties at a party in Texas, a bank in Wisconsin, and an elementary school in California, among others. Among the deadliest instances occurred in a small town church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
A known abuser of women, children, and animals was able to amass an arsenal and kill 26 people. A failure in the system allowed him to purchase weapons despite his history of domestic violence; this is not the first time that dangerous men have been able to exploit our weak gun laws. And until our leaders take steps to strengthen them, it won’t be the last.
Domestic violence is a feminist issue — and in order to tackle domestic violence, we must address the weapons that make such violence deadly. Women across the country are being silenced by domestic abusers with guns; they are being controlled by an oppressor using a tool of oppression. For far too long, our leaders have not taken domestic violence, especially domestic violence involving guns, seriously. Our weak laws demonstrate their lack of concern for the wellbeing of the women affected.
In order to pass stronger gun laws that will protect women from gun violence, we need women to continue leading the charge. The emergence of women-led gun violence prevention groups, advocates, and leaders has diminished the power of the gun lobby. In the 2017 Virginia elections, we saw women defeat the NRA’s roster of spineless men for House of Delegates seats. As midterm elections draw closer, more women are running for office and making gun violence prevention front-and-center in their platforms.
It is meaningful that today’s Women’s March took place in Las Vegas — the site of the deadliest mass shooting in American history. People are tired of being afraid. They are tired of losing their loved ones to gun violence. And they recognize the need to honor the victims of gun violence with action.
Women deserve to live without fear of armed abusers. Communities deserve to live without fear of violence. Our country deserves to live without fear of another mass shooting. Fear is an oppressor. As the women’s movement enters its second year, we must remember the message we sent last year and show our oppressors we are not finished yet. We will not succumb to fear.
Bryan Barks is the executive editor at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.