Gendered Violence: Domestic Abuse and Gun Ownership

by Christina Charie '25 on February 16, 2023
Opinion Editor

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With mass shootings on the rise once again, inaction still runs rampant within the American legal system. Recently the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals released a new decision that will allow domestic abusers to own guns. Even though domestic abuse situations are closely tied to mass shootings, courts continue to uphold gun rights at the cost of human lives. Upon closer analysis, one must realize that allowing domestic abusers to legally own a firearm will have a disproportionate impact on women.

While one in nine men experience partner violence, domestic violence impacts women at a rate of 25 percent according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The new ruling from the Court of Appeals has consequences that will impact more women than men in America, which is often left out of headlines. The law continues to insinuate that women’s safety is less important than men’s right to own a gun. Women are not truly equal to men if such a ruling is considered constitutional.   

The Appeals Court ruling not only allows domestic abusers to legally own a gun; but those with a restraining order against them also have a pathway to legal gun ownership. Any law that prevents domestic abusers from owning a firearm is unconstitutional according to the court’s interpretation of the Constitution. However, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the risk of homicide increases by 500 percent when a gun is present in a domestic violence situation. 

The victim’s life should take precedence, but the American legal system casts them aside. This allows them to be sacrificed in the name of the Second Amendment before considering that a document written in 1789 might need reforms. Instead, survivors are forced to live in fear before the government will seize guns from a citizen.

While the ruling only applies to Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, court decisions have the power to set far-reaching precedents. If challenges to the ruling reach the Supreme Court, a decision could require that all states guarantee that domestic abusers have the right to firearm ownership. Ultimately, this decision sustains a culture of silence surrounding domestic violence as victims will fear for their lives when reporting abuse, which may even deter survivors from informing law enforcement altogether.

Any solution to gun violence must take into consideration how women are neglected in the name of American exceptionalism. Despite the gendered nature of gun violence, people of all identities will face the consequences of silence. Domestic violence is traumatic on its own; the last thing survivors need is the constant fear of gun violence as well.