Fact Sheet

How Gun Violence Affects Dating Partners

Gun violence in an intimate partner context remains unacceptably high in the United States, and the burden of this violence frequently falls on people in dating relationships.

Gun violence in an intimate partner context remains unacceptably high in the United States, and the burden of this violence frequently falls on people in dating relationships. Federal law restricts access to firearms for some domestic abusers, but few protections exist for victims of dating partner violence or stalking. More can be done at the state and federal level to extend protections to victims of dating partner violence.

Despite a decrease in overall violent crime, intimate partner violence persists throughout the United States, and this violence falls disproportionately on people in dating relationships:

  • More women are abused by their current or former boyfriends than by current or former spouses: From 2003 to 2012, 39 percent of nonfatal violence against women was committed by a dating partner versus 25 percent committed by a spouse.
  • In 1980, 69 percent of intimate partner homicides were committed by a spouse. By 2008, 48.6 percent of intimate partner homicides were committed by a dating partner.

This violence particularly affects women under age 35:

  • In 2010, women between the ages of 18 and 34 experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence compared with all other age groups.
  • According to a National Dating Abuse Helpline survey, 50 percent of those seeking aid from the helpline in 2012 were between the ages of 17 and 24.
  • Of all people under age 30 that were murdered by a boyfriend or girlfriend between 2003 and 2012, 80 percent of the victims were women.

Dating partner abuse often turns fatal, and this is frequently due to the presence of a gun:

Between 2003 and 2012, 2,431 young people under the age of 30 were killed by their boyfriend or girlfriend. Of these murders, nearly half involved a gun.

Federal law and many states’ laws do not provide comprehensive protections for victims of dating violence to ensure that their abusers do not have access to guns. Currently, the following dangerous groups of people are still allowed to purchase and carry guns:

  • Individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence against a current or former dating partner with whom they do not have a child or with whom they have not lived
  • Individuals subject to a domestic violence restraining order from the categories of victims listed above
  • Individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of stalking

However, some states have taken action to protect victims of dating violence from gun violence and have enacted laws that offer the protections missing from federal law:

In 2014, six states enacted legislation to strengthen laws that keep guns out of the hands of known domestic abusers. In 2015, 13 states—Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington—have already introduced legislation that would close the loopholes in federal law and prevent convicted domestic abusers from accessing or purchasing guns.

Lauren Speigel is the Research Associate for the Crime and Firearms Policy team at the Center for American Progress.

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Authors

Lauren Speigel

Research Associate, Guns and Crime Policy

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