How We Can Prevent Domestic Abusers and Stalkers from Accessing Guns

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While opinions may differ as to the scope of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, almost all Americans agree that criminals should not have access to guns. Congress recognized the need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people more than 40 years ago when it passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibited felons and other dangerous individuals from owning guns. The Supreme Court has also sanctioned restrictions on gun ownership by such individuals, repeatedly holding in recent decisions that such federal and state laws to prohibit gun ownership by criminals and other dangerous individuals are well within the bounds of the Constitution.

One group of people who are at a heightened risk of gun attacks is women who are targets of domestic violence and stalking. We know that intimate-partner violence is a pernicious crime that affects millions of women across the country. Women are more than three-and-a-half times as likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men. In 2005, 40 percent of female homicide victims nationwide were killed by a current or former intimate partner, and guns were used in more than half of those murders. The lethality of domestic-violence incidents—and therefore the risk to women—increases exponentially when a firearm is present in the home: Having a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide of an intimate partner by eight times compared to households without guns. This risk of homicide increases by 20 times compared to households without guns when there is a history of domestic violence in the family.

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