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By Taylor Kuether
November 7, 2013
Caption : Forty-six women in domestic violence situations die every month at the hands of a partner with a gun.     

According to some sobering statistics from The New Republic, 46 women die each month at the hands of an intimate partner with a gun. The presence of a gun makes the likelihood of death in a domestic violence situation 500 percent higher.

Countering this statistic of 46 female deaths due to domestic violence-turned-homicide, states with strict gun laws and enforced background checks, 38 percent fewer women killed in instances of domestic violence.

Domestic violence, with or without a gun, is devastating. With a gun, it is deadly. Women’s lives can be saved simply via enforcing stricter gun laws. Who wouldn’t want that?

Consider Arizona native Vicki Walker, who in an opinion piece recounted her own heartbreaking experience with domestic violence. Her daughter’s ex-boyfriend – who failed a criminal background check but attained a gun anyway – murdered both Walker’s daughter and husband.

In the piece, Walker calls background checks “common sense.”

“It is just common sense that any person who wants to buy a gun should go through a simple 90-second background check. The overwhelming majority of the American people – including 90 percent of Arizonans – agree with me. This is to say nothing of the 82 percent of gun owners who back this measure, according to a poll from the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns,” Walker wrote. “Since 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has blocked more than 250,000 gun sales to domestic abusers.”

Organizations like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Demand Action both raised awareness about these alarming statistics throughout the month of October about Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Ariel Jurmain, a 22-year-old Eau Claire, WI, native who volunteers her time at a local women’s shelter, said she’s encountered gun violence stories a great deal among the women with whom she works.

“Many clients have told me about being threatened with guns by their partner during a violent episode. No one I’ve worked with personally has been shot due to this kind of situation, but I know that in violent partnerships, being threatened with deadly weapons is a fairly common occurrence,” Jurmain said. “And no matter how much an abuser might intend ‘only’ to threaten their victim with a firearm, accidents absolutely happen, especially when the abuser is already angry and violent.”

Jurmain, whose job involves helping women file restraining orders, said she asks questions about how weapons were involved in the abusive relationship.

“A large number of the clients I work with tell me that their abuser does possess deadly weapons, and that weapons were involved in a past abusive incident,”Jurmain said. “Many people in Wisconsin own hunting guns and knives or other weapons, and many survivors tell me they experienced being threatened or hurt with those weapons.”

Fortunately, successfully petitioning for a Domestic Violence restraining order in Wisconsin mandates that the abuser’s weapons be confiscated, and they not be allowed to obtain any more weapons, Jurmain explained.

She noted, though, that this does not mean the abuser cannot access a friend’s gun or use weapons hidden elsewhere.

“Restraining orders can help, but they are anything but foolproof,” Jurmain said.

“The most dangerous time, when a victim is most likely to be murdered, is when they leave the abusive relationship,” Jurmain said. “We do our best to keep people safe, and we work with the police to mitigate risk. But when I think about the number of abusers out there with access to deadly weapons, and how research shows they are more likely to take drastically violent action when their victim leaves, it’s sobering, to say the least.”

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