Skip to main content

Guns killing women: Time for Congress to act

By Gabrielle Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
A shooting in suburban Houston this month that left six family members dead was linked to domestic violence.
A shooting in suburban Houston this month that left six family members dead was linked to domestic violence.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gabrielle Giffords, Katie Ray-Jones: Congress must address domestic violence and guns
  • In domestic abuse situations, women five times more likely to die if abuser has access to gun
  • Senate on Wednesday set to hold its first-ever hearing on domestic violence homicides

Editor's note: Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is the co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions. Katie Ray-Jones is the president and acting CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

(CNN) -- This month, just outside of Houston, a man police say had a history of abusing and threatening women got his hands on a gun and executed six members of his ex-wife's family -- including four children. On that day, local law enforcement officials believe he was on his way to hunt down other family members when, thankfully, they ended his rampage.

In our country, it's a sadly common story: An abuser or stalker gains access to guns and destroys the lives of women and families in our communities.

That's why it is time for Congress to address this lethal mix of domestic violence and guns. Our leaders must pass laws that prevent stalkers and abusers from accessing guns to intimidate, hurt or kill women.

Domestic violence: The next front in gun control fight

Sheriff rallies for stronger gun laws
Gabrielle Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones
Gabrielle Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones

The numbers should shock you: Women in America are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other democratic countries with developed economies. In domestic abuse situations, if the abuser has access to a gun, it increases the chance that a woman will die by 500%.

Most of the time, women are murdered with guns by someone they know, either by a family member or an intimate partner, such as a former or current husband or boyfriend.

Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. That is a national shame.

Fortunately, the momentum is on our side. On Wednesday, the Senate will hold its first-ever hearing on domestic violence homicides and the use of gun violence against America's women. Many of our elected leaders are calling for new protections for those who are subject to abuse. States are already taking bipartisan action. And Americans support these laws by staggering margins.

Keeping weapons from mentally ill proves elusive

Christie explains gun magazine veto
Group will issue guns survey
Clinton speaks out for gun control

Currently, federal law prevents people who are under domestic violence protection orders or have misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from accessing guns. But even though increasing numbers of couples are choosing to marry later in life, the law hasn't been extended to address dating partner abuse. And convicted stalkers can still get guns.

Common sense says that these dangerous loopholes should be closed now. Congress has the power to do it.

Those who argue that stalkers don't necessarily exhibit violent or threatening behavior haven't been on the other side of a conversation with a woman who fears for her life because her former boyfriend or acquaintance is promising to find her and kill her. The reality is three out of four women killed by their intimate partner were stalked before their death. We must continue to educate those who don't understand why we need these protections for abused women.

Democrats and Republicans in state legislatures around the country recognize the problem and have come together to pass laws that better protect women from gun violence. This year alone, leaders in six states -- Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington and Wisconsin -- have enacted legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support that will help protect abused women from gun violence.

Faced with laws that don't do enough to keep guns away from domestic abusers and stalkers, Democrats and Republicans chose common-sense change over the status quo.

Opinion: I'm a gun owner and I want gun control

Our leaders in Washington should follow their example and back legislation that prohibits stalkers and dating abusers from having guns. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a former prosecutor, has a bill that would do just that. It is the responsible thing to do.

Keeping guns out of the hands of abusers and stalkers will take more than a Senate hearing and carefully worded statements that say all the right things. It will require our leaders to show some courage and stand up for common-sense laws. It will require some hard work. And it will require overcoming the power of those in Washington who continue to fight against these laws.

But we urgently need stronger gun laws that protect women. We can't wait any longer. Women's lives are at stake.

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT