Lewis Diuguid

Lewis Diuguid: Domestic violence homicides in U.S. keep women in the crosshairs of guns

A new Violence Policy Center study, “When Men Murder Women,” points out that women may buy firearms for protection, but guns are the most common weapon used in domestic violence murders. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
A new Violence Policy Center study, “When Men Murder Women,” points out that women may buy firearms for protection, but guns are the most common weapon used in domestic violence murders. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Kansas City Star

Women in the United States should be the most radical, anti-firearms folks on the planet, forming an organization that could be called the National No-Gun Alliance.

That thought comes to mind after reading a report released this month, showing that in 2013 more than 1,600 women were murdered by men, and the weapon used the most was a gun. The Violence Policy Center study is titled “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2013 Homicide Data.”

“A woman must consider the risks of having a gun in her home, whether she is in a domestic violence situation or not,” the study says. “While two-thirds of women who own guns acquired them ‘primarily for protection against crime,’ the results of a California analysis show that ‘purchasing a handgun provides no protection against homicide among women and is associated with an increase in their risk for intimate partner homicide.’

“A 2003 study about the risks of firearms in the home found that females living with a gun in the home were nearly three times more likely to be murdered than females with no gun in the home. Finally, another study reports, women who were murdered were more likely, not less likely, to have purchased a handgun in the three years prior to their deaths, again invalidating the idea that a handgun has a protective effect against homicide.

“While this study does not focus solely on domestic violence homicide or guns, it provides a stark reminder that domestic violence and guns make a deadly combination. Firearms are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes. Instead, they are all too often used to inflict harm on the very people they were intended to protect.”

The report was released ahead of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The “When Men Murder Women” study ranks states on the rate of females murdered by males.

Kansas ranked 25th in the nation, with 15 women murdered by men with a homicide rate per 100,000 women of 1.03. Missouri ranked just ahead of Kansas at 24th in the U.S., with 32 women murdered by men, with a homicide rate per 100,000 women of 1.04.

The top 10 states of women murdered by men were South Carolina, Alaska, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee (tied with), Oklahoma, Vermont, Maine and Michigan. The study uses data from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report. Some of the findings in the report were:

▪ In the U.S. 1,615 females were murdered by males in single victim/single offender killings in 2013.

▪ In the homicides in which the victim-to-offender relationship could be identified, 94 percent of female victims (1,438 out of 1,530) were murdered by a male they knew.

▪ Fifteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers (92 victims).

▪ Of the victims who knew their assailants, 62 percent (895) of the female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.

▪ Husbands or intimate acquaintances shot and killed 280 women in the course of an argument.

▪ In the U.S. for homicides in which the weapon could be determined (1,477), more female homicides were committed with firearms (53 percent) than with any other weapon. Knives and other cutting instruments accounted for 20 percent of all female murders; bodily force, 13 percent; and murder by blunt object, 7 percent. Of the homicides committed with firearms, 69 percent were with handguns.

▪ In 85 percent of all incidents in which the circumstances could be determined, homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony such as rape or robbery.

“The picture that emerges from “When Men Murder Women” is that women face the greatest threat from someone they know, most often a spouse or intimate acquaintance, who is armed with a gun,” the report said. “For women in America, guns are not used to save lives but to take them.”

Data presented in the 18 years of these studies led to the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, which will be 21 years old this year, in addition to the passage of limits on firearms possession by people with misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence or those subject to protective orders for domestic violence.

“Since passage of these laws, domestic violence has increasingly been treated as the serious problem that it is,” the report notes.

More could be done, and more should be done. Women, however, should take the lead in pushing for more effective controls on guns.