For years, we have known that gun violence and domestic violence are inextricably linked; in 2017, Everytown for Gun Safety found that 54 percent of perpetrators who were culpable for mass shootings had shot a current or past partner or family member. The likelihood of violence by a partner is so pervasive that for years, activists called upon lawmakers to close a so-called "boyfriend loophole" that allowed for certain parters who had exhibited past predatory behavior to still buy a firearm. Now, a new study provides evidence that the issue is systemic and specific: Higher rates of gun ownership correlate with higher rates of domestic homicide. Tellingly, they do not correlate to any other form of homicide by a firearm.
As the New Y0rk Times reports, researchers analyzed gun ownership numbers in all 50 states from 1990 to 2016; they then compared that data against homicides committed with and without a firearm, and overall. All told, they analyzed a total of 469,279 homicides committed in a 26-year period. The larger the gun-owning population was in any given state, the greater the number of domestic firearm homicides in that state.
"Female victims represented an average of 28.1 percent of all homicide victims and 22.4 percent of firearm homicide victims," the study found. "However, female victims comprised a disproportionate number of all victims of intimate partner homicide and intimate partner homicides by firearm." Female victims made up 72.9 percent and 72.2 percent of those deaths, respectively, which means that most intimate partner homicides committed against women were perpetrated with a gun.
The study siloed victims into three categories: all victims, male victims, and female victims; they did not account for nonbinary or gender-nonconforming people, likely because law enforcement tabulations have been slow to recognize those identities.
“It is women, in particular, who are bearing the burden of this increased gun ownership,” Aaron Kivisto, an associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Indianapolis who led the study, told the Times.
While firearm homicides targeting friends and acquaintances make up the bulk of firearm homicides, the study found those crime rates were not affected by an increase in gun ownership; neither was the rate of firearm homicides involving strangers.
"We're not the only country with a lot of guns," Kivisto told MTV News. "We're the only country that struggles to live with them safely."
Jezebel notes that this study comes soon after another study published in American Journal of Public Health that found an abuser's access to a firearm made it five times more likely they would kill their victim with it. In 2017, over half the women killed by firearms in the U.S. were killed by their partners.
The NRA is fighting back against the study, but their logic begs several questions. In a statement, NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said, “The study fails to include factors that organizations like the F.B.I. recognize as contributing to violent crime. State funding of law enforcement and social services should be the most relevant factors considered when addressing domestic violence and this study fails to control for either.” There are plenty of reasons as to why domestic violence victims don't report to either law enforcement or any other kind of support system; sometimes, the agencies only get involved when it's too late.
Moreover, Kivisto tells MTV News that the study did account for such factors. "To the extent that law enforcement is funded, more or less, we're not expecting that to only impact domestic homicide; you'd expect that to impact all forms of other violent crime," he pointed out.
"It would be great, certainly, to have more funding for things like social services and law enforcement. If the NRA truly believed that that was the solution to reducing firearm mortality, it would be wonderful if they funded that and they created a community where in fact people could live with guns in a safe way," he added. Per ThinkProgress, the bulk of the work currently done by the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action focuses on lobbying against stricter gun-control legislation rather than focusing on gun safety.
To combat those gaps, activists, and lawmakers are pushing for extreme risk laws, which would tighten restrictions against people who have exhibited dangerous, abusive, and/or predatory behavior against people in their lives.
As Sarah Burd-Sharps, the Director of Research at Everytown for Gun Safety, told MTV News, "Too often a domestic abuser’s easy access to a gun is the difference between life and death for their partner. This study adds to the body of research underscoring the importance of keeping guns out of the hands of abusive partners, and it's a reminder that the deadly gaps in our gun laws are having a disproportionate impact on women."