Guns & Domestic Violence

(01/18/2013)

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, this country has been in a debate regarding gun control.  On the one hand, the right to bear arms is an enumerated right granted by the 2nd Amendment.  And on the other, our society is seeing our homes, our schools and our communities ravaged by gun violence.  In Nevada, this debate is highly relevant.  Until recently, Nevada has led the nation in domestic violence homicides. 

When talking about gun control, domestic violence must have a central point in the conversation.  In 2010, more than three women a day were killed by their intimate partner and 52 percent of female homicide victims were killed with a gun.  Additionally, a recent study shows access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner homicide over five times, compared to instances where there is no access.  The study also shows that abusers who possess guns tend to inflict the most severe abuse on their partners.

Because of Constitutional issues, all gun regulations must be very specific and narrowly tailored.  This week, President Obama and Vice-President Biden unveiled many recommendations regarding developing gun legislation for this country that, if implemented, would increase safety for victims of domestic violence.

One of the most significant is the president’s call for universal background checks.  The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban prohibits gun possession by those convicted of domestic violence or who are subject to a temporary protection order due to domestic violence.The universal background check will close the private sale loophole, Internet and gun show sales of firearms and reduce access to firearms by abusers.

Additionally, there should be increased funding and support for domestic violence homicide reduction and lethality assessment programs.  The primary reason Nevada no longer leads the nation in domestic violence homicide is because of an innovative Lethality Assessment Partnership between Safe Nest and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. 

This project is focused on reducing the number of homicides by having officers connect high-risk victims to trained crisis intervention specialists at Safe Nest.  When an officer responds to a domestic violence call, he/she performs lethality assessment with the victim. If the victim scores highly on the scale, the officer contacts the Safe Nest Domestic Violence Hotline.  The victim is given the option to speak to a Crisis Counselor immediately.  At that time, the victim and the Crisis Counselor explore all options available to the victim including access to shelter and Emergency Temporary Protection Orders.  Additionally the specially-training Crisis Counselor also helps the police officer in interviewing the victim and ascertaining the details of the events.  There are several incidences in which consultation between the Crisis Counselor and the police officer resulted in an arrest and additional charges being made at the scene.  Since the implementation of the project in 2009, domestic violence homicides have decreased by over half in the State.  In Clark County, homicides attributed to domestic violence went down from 50 in 2009 to 17 in 2011.

In Nevada, legal statutes (NRS 33.033) allow for the courts to order the adverse party subject to a temporary protection order to surrender all firearms.  The Nevada State legislature should change this language to make it mandatory, rather than just allowable, for all persons subject to a domestic violence protection order to be ordered to surrender their firearms.

So, in this whirling debate regarding gun control it is essential that we remember victims of domestic violence, enforce the current laws, and give greater support to programs designed to reduce domestic violence homicides such as the Lethality Assessment Program. 

When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2010 Homicide Date: Females Murdered by Males in Victim/Single Offender Incidents. 2012 Violence Policy Center. Washington DC. www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2012.pdf Ibid.
J.C. Campbell, D; Webster, J; Koziol-McLain, C.R; et al. 2003 Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From A Multi-Site Case Control Study. American Journal of Public Health. 93(7).
Ibid.