It happened again. Another case of domestic violence resulting in a murder. Just this week in San Bernadino, Calif., a man walked into his wife’s place of work – an elementary school – and shot to death her, a student and himself. Another student was injured. He was her husband, he was her abuser, and he had a gun.
Statistics compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and various organizations show the pattern: A gun in the home where there is domestic violence increases the risk of homicide manyfold: by one academic study, abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if their abuser owns a firearm.
There are laws that prevent criminals from owning guns, but there are also laws that allow convicted stalkers and abusers to legally possess a gun right up until they kill. It’s unconscionable.
Oregon Senate Bill 797 attempts to close that gap.
FURTHER READING: Guns and domestic violence: Oregon's loophole
Currently, Oregon statute makes it unlawful for someone to possess a firearm if they are menacing – stalking, intimidating, etc. – someone they have a legal relationship with, which means being married to, having a child together or having cohabitated. SB 797 expands that to protect people of domestic violence even if they have not had that specific definition of relationship. It’s dubbed the Boyfriend Loophole. And SB 797 would make it unlawful for a person who has been convicted of stalking to own a gun.
It’s about time. Because we as a society shouldn’t sanction lethal force to people who view human beings as prey.
The gun lobby, fronted here by the Oregon Firearms Federation, is taking the predictable stance in opposing any legislation that regulates ownership, and multiple copies of a form letter calling for this and other bills’ defeat was presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In sharp contrast to that impersonal, copied-and-pasted statement penned by the Federation, is the very personal, pervasive tragedy of domestic violence and its proven link to public violence and murder, notably among women seeking to escape abusive relationships.
In addition to SB 797, we strongly urge the Oregon Senate to approve a House-passed measure that would include the influence of domestic violence and abuse when deciding sentences for people convicted of a crime.
Numerous statistics show that the majority of women who are or have been in prison attribute their incarceration to their relationship with an abuser.
There’s no question that gun laws are an imperfect tool, and criminals will always attempt to thwart laws. It’s as old as the hills. But let’s do all we can to ensure that the men and women seeking to buy guns are at least better than the people who beat and traumatize those they claim to love. It’s time to acknowledge that domestic violence is among the most pervasive forms of terrorism in our community, and we must do all we can to prevent those responsible from being armed.