By Mudit Gilotra, MD, family physician practicing in Philadelphia, PA and NPA 2014 Copello Health Advocacy Fellow.
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and the Lautenberg Amendment in 1997 started the process of protecting victims of domestic violence by banning the access to firearms of some people convicted of crimes of domestic violence.
However, 20 years later, we know that they did not go far enough. Today, in many states, perpetrators of domestic violence who do not fit the law’s narrow criteria continue to maintain or purchase a firearm. This loophole forces victims of domestic violence to live in fear. We know that:
• there is a 500% increase in the risk of homicide for female victims of domestic violence if there is a gun involved.1
• 54% of women murdered with guns in 2011 were killed by intimate partners or family members.2
• in states that require a handgun background check, there is a 38% drop in death among women who are shot by intimate partners.3
Domestic violence month has come and gone, and the nation’s attention has shifted. Yet, as physicians and caregivers, the safety and well being of our patients is at the heart of what we do. We have often struggled with our patients, victims of a violent relationship, hoping they will find their way to safety and grateful to find that they are still alive each time they walk through the clinic doors. It is about time the government, local and federal, protect all victims of domestic violence, regardless of their marital status or other definition of their relationship.
The following two pieces of legislation have gone in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and await further action. Both of these commonsense pieces of legislation will protect all victims of domestic violence. Click here to contact your Senators now to co-sponsor these two important bills.
Further, access the following link to see how your state measures up and learn about actions you can take locally.
1. J.C. Campbell, D.W. Webster, J. Koziol-McLain, et al., “Risk factors for femicide within physically abusive intimate relationships: results from a multi-site case control study,” 93 Amer. J. of Public Health 1089-1097 (2003).
2. Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Supplementary Homicide Report,” 2011.
3. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2010, available at http://bit.ly/V1GvFe (excludes New York due to incomplete data).