Gendered Violence: Domestic Abuse and Gun Ownership
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.
Incessant Cycle: Mass Shootings Continue in America
It’s happening again and no one should be surprised. Mass shootings are nothing new, and the more we hear about them, the more desensitized we become. Late at night on Saturday, Nov. 19, another deadly shooting took place at an LGBTQ+ bar called Club Q in Colorado Springs, CO. The shooter murdered five people and injured at least nineteen others during this bias-motivated crime. Before Americans had time to process this tragedy, the next major shooting occurred. Three days later on Tuesday, Nov. 22, a Walmart manager killed six employees and injured six others in the Walmart break room in Chesapeake, VA. Despite all the shootings highlighted in the media, there are still countless mass shootings that aren’t publicized. This is truly an American problem. A recent study showed that the United States was responsible for 73 percent of the 139 mass shootings that occurred globally in developed countries between 1998 and 2019. The study described how the United States was also responsible for 62 percent of all 1,318 mass shooting fatalities from the same time period. How is this still a problem in America? Americans have learned that nowhere is safe—not the grocery store, not your favorite entertainment venue, not your place of worship, not your school.
Mass shootings cause fear for most people in the United States. Despite this, nothing is being done to stop this never-ending cycle of violence. Politicians flock to Twitter to offer their “thoughts and prayers,” which do nothing to aid in ending the tragedies Americans face far too often. Citizens do not want your thoughts. Citizens do not want your prayers. What citizens need is action. Politicians tell Americans to avoid politicizing such tragedies, but how can they not? Gun violence in our country is a political issue and one that needs serious attention. How can nothing continue to change when employees are being murdered in their break rooms? When people are murdered at a club because of their sexual orientation? When children are murdered at school?
The younger generation might remember sitting in the corner during lockdown drills at school and how exciting it was when it cut into class time. From the teacher’s perspective, the drill is terrifying. As an elementary school student teacher, I participated in ALICE training, which teaches active shooting preparedness. The police come to a school to tell staff about the statistics of school shootings and how faculty members can keep their students alive. During this training, teachers learned how to barricade entryways as the police tried breaking down doors. The main focus of the presentation is how to keep most students alive. The police officers went on to tell the teachers that if one student is not in the classroom when the lockdown sounds, they need to lock that student out to protect the other children. Furthermore, if someone can make it out of the building, they should leave as quickly as possible. If someone sees injured people on the way out, they are supposed to leave them to avoid slowing anyone else down. Teachers—including myself—were in tears, thinking about the kids we love and see every day, left for dead because protocol states staff should not help them. Why is this something Americans need to think about? Why is this a real experience teachers and students have faced and lost their lives over?
The number of mass killings in 2022 remains about average compared to previous years. However, there has been a relatively higher number of victims. When looking at all mass killings in the U.S. between 2006 and now, this year is currently the third highest for its victim count. Of the 202 killed this year, 58 were killed in a public fatal shooting, 128 were killed in non-public fatal shootings, and 16 were killed by other means. Gun violence is a major problem in this country and not much is being done to fix it. Thoughts and prayers don’t save lives—action and policy change do. Where are the stricter gun laws and better mental health screenings to prevent the tragedies we have seen time and time again? Without change, the list of the dead, already too long, will only continue to grow. In the period from 1966 to now, Rhode Island has never had a mass killing event. If nothing changes, how long do we have until this streak is broken? No one will feel safe until the people in charge start making decisions that enact real change and fix the laws that are killing their citizens.