Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Pennsylvania’s Weak Gun Laws Are Connected to Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence
Press Release

RELEASE: Pennsylvania’s Weak Gun Laws Are Connected to Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence

Washington, D.C. — Five women are murdered with guns every day in the United States, most often by their intimate partners. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a landmark hearing on the intersection of gun violence and domestic violence, titled “VAWA Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence.” The Center for American Progress and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have released fact sheets for 27 states providing detailed information about the scope of fatal domestic violence and the large role access to guns plays in that violence in each state. Justice Seamus McCaffery of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to be a witness at today’s hearing.

Domestic violence fatalities are prevalent in Pennsylvania, and they are frequently a result of gun crime: According to the FBI, 55.8 percent of women murdered by an intimate partner in Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2012 were killed with a gun. Pennsylvania has just four of the eight gun laws recommended by CAP and the Law Center to provide adequate protection for women from domestic gun violence. Although the state requires background checks for handguns, no such requirement exists for rifles or shotguns. However, Pennsylvania law has prevented convicted misdemeanant stalkers from possessing guns since 2002, a key provision of a bill to amend federal law introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), S. 1290, that is part of the discussion at today’s hearing.

“More than half of intimate partner homicides of women in Pennsylvania involve firearms,” said Shira Goodman, Executive Director of CeasefirePA. “As today’s Senate hearing makes clear, we need stronger laws to protect women and all Pennsylvanians from gun violence. There ought to be background checks on all gun sales, including assault rifles and shotguns, no matter who the seller is. And the prohibition on gun possession for domestic abusers ought to be extended to dating partners.”

The 27 fact sheets describe the intersection of gun violence and domestic violence in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

“More often than not, fatal domestic abuse involves a gun,” said Arkadi Gerney, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “These deeply intertwined challenges are made all the more dangerous by lax federal and state laws that allow dangerous abusers and stalkers to have easy access to guns. Today’s hearing is a milestone in the fight to improve protections to ensure that all women are kept safe from domestic abusers and stalkers who should never be able to get their hands on a firearm.”

“When it’s five times more likely that a woman will be killed by her abuser when he owns a gun, we know that guns make a domestic violence situation deadly,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “As a nation, we are failing to protect women from domestic abusers and stalkers by not closing these dangerous loopholes in our federal and state laws. The American public and legislators nationwide need to understand the facts on the lethal combination of guns and domestic abuse, and support these commonsense solutions to save women’s lives.”

Last month, CAP released a first of its kind report analyzing the connection between gun violence and domestic and intimate partner violence and the failure of states and the federal government to take steps to curb firearm assaults within the existing legal framework.

Click here to view all 27 fact sheets.

For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.