My Turn: Keep guns away from abusers and stalkers
Both of us are proud residents of New Hampshire, but this week we’re in Washington, D.C.
We’re here with people who, like us, are also survivors of domestic violence and activists on this issue. Some of us of will even testify before a Senate committee that is considering important legislation that would help keep New Hampshire women safer from the toxic mix of guns and domestic violence.
Both of us have been shot by domestic abusers, and both of us understand all-too-well that when you add a gun to a domestic abuse situation, the combination can be lethal. The bill making its way through Congress, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (S. 1290), would close loopholes in federal law that allow domestic abusers and stalkers to obtain guns.
While current law prohibits some convicted domestic abusers and subjects of restraining orders from possessing firearms, it only extends to husbands, cohabiters, parents/guardians and parents of the victim’s child; it doesn’t apply to “dating partners.” In other words, so long as an abuser was merely the boyfriend of the woman he abused, he can continue to buy and own firearms.
It doesn’t take Granite State wisdom to know that’s just wrong.
All too often, weak laws like these can lead to deadly results. Each month, 48 women are shot to death by a current or former husband or boyfriend. Further, the mere presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.
Klobuchar’s act would take serious, commonsense steps to stem this unacceptable tide of lethal violence against women. While in Washington, we will urge our representatives to take immediate action by co-sponsoring the bill.
After all, a considerable number of these 48 monthly gun murders are committed by these as-of-now-exempt dating partners. By closing this loophole in federal law and treating abusive boyfriends the same way we do abusive husbands, there is no question that Klobuchar’s bill would save women’s lives.
Additionally, the bill would add those convicted of stalking misdemeanors to the list of prohibited gun owners. Considering that, in a study of 10 major cities, almost 90 percent of all attempted murders of women were preceded by at least one stalking incident in the prior year, it makes no sense at all that these stalkers are still permitted to buy and own guns.
Passing this bill would in no way infringe the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms is intended for law-abiding citizens, not deranged men who beat, stalk and murder women. When these criminals can get their hands on guns, innocent women pay the price.
It is well known that women in America are 11 times more likely to be killed with guns than their peers in other developed nations. This shocking statistic is fundamentally linked to domestic abuse: Over half of all these female gun deaths come at the hands of an intimate partner or family member. By closing the gaps in federal law that allow abusive criminals to buy and use guns, we can make a serious dent in the epidemic of violence against women that plagues our state and our nation.
(Clai Lasher Sommers was shot in the back by her abusive stepfather when she was 13. She went on to establish a domestic violence shelter and rape crisis center in upstate New York. She now lives in her home state of New Hampshire, where she continues to work to prevent domestic violence and advocates for safer gun laws. John Cantin’s daughter, Missy, was shot and killed by her estranged husband in 2009, and John was also shot in the incident. A Manchester resident, John has been an advocate against domestic violence abuse and gun violence since his daughter’s murder. He is also a veteran and the commissioner for the Victims Compensation program in New Hampshire.)