Even as a staunch believer in the Second Amendment, I think that if the NRA and some Senate Republicans continue to fight against the reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act, they will all have blood on their hands. As the reauthorization comes to the Senate floor early this year, let’s take a look at what they will really be voting for, or against.
Under current federal law, convicted abusers are banned from possessing guns — and I repeat CONVICTED of beating their current or former spouse. The proposed reauthorization includes elimination of the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows someone convicted of domestic abuse — again, convicted —to possess or buy a gun if the woman he beat up was a girlfriend with whom he did not live.
So, a guy beats up his girlfriend — and maybe her kids — puts her in the hospital, is then convicted of the crime — but because he didn’t actually live with her, he can then legally go buy a gun? We know statistically, without any doubt, that this increases the chance that he will use the gun on her, but just because he didn’t live with her, he can still possess or buy the gun. This is the loophole the reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act would close.
That seems like basic common sense to me.
Currently, in order to get real protection, what is a battered woman supposed to do? Invite her abuser to live with her so that when we he beats her up again, a judge can then ban him from owning firearms? Come on.
Reauthorization will save many lives. State laws that prohibit firearms in temporary domestic violence restraining orders have shown a 16 percent reduction in firearm intimate partner homicide — 16 percent may not sound like a lot, but try this: that’s 120 women whose lives would be saved every single year.
Some might say, ‘Well the guy will find another way to murder his abuse victim if he really wants to,’ but statistically this isn’t the case. The risk of homicide for women is 500 percent more in homes with firearms. Take this example which clearly shows that “opportunity reduction” of crime works: In the UK in the 1970’s suicide declined by over 40 percent while it was rising everywhere else — because the UK removed carbon monoxide from the public gas supply (the overwhelmingly-used method for suicide was by carbon monoxide poisoning).
Opportunity is an enormously important aspect of crime — which means no gun, no murder in many, many situations.
Furthermore, nearly 90 percent of attempted murders of women were preceded by stalking or abuse. That — combined with the stats connecting gun access to murdered women — means a majority of battered women's lives could be saved simply by preventing convicted abusers from owning guns. Period.
On some level, I get the NRA opposing it: Arguably, that’s their job. But the politicians (i.e. some Senate Republicans) opposing it? No, I don’t get that. Sure, maybe you’re afraid of the NRA, but what about your constituents who are afraid for their lives because you haven’t reauthorized this act? The 120 women whose lives would be saved each year include someone’s sister, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter. Republican lawmakers should protect these battered women.
Liberty Vittert, PhD, is a professor of the practice of data science at the Olin Business School at the Washington University in St. Louis. She is also the feature editor of the Harvard Data Science Review and co-host of the Harvard Data Science Review podcast. She is an on-air statistician for “On Balance” on NewsNation. Follow her on Twitter @libertyvittert