On Thursday, The Arizona Republic reported that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was planning an initiative to address gun violence perpetrated by domestic abusers against women and other family members. Giffords is planning to host a “Domestic Violence Awareness Summit” on Wednesday, that will bring together dozens of women from across the country to form a group called The Women’s Coalition for Common Sense.
The coalition’s national advisory board will include such dignitaries as former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, actress Alyssa Milano, and former governors Jennifer Granholm and Christine Todd Whitman. Whitman represented New Jersey as a moderate Republican. Granholm, a Democrat, served as Michigan’s governor for two terms, from 2003-2011.
Giffords, who was seriously wounded by a gun man in 2011, plans to create the new organization to address the lethal connection between domestic violence and easy access to firearms. Women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be murdered by their domestic abuser, if there is a gun in the home.
Focusing on domestic violence is a critical need in the discussion of gun violence in America. With all the focus on public mass shootings, domestic violence is too often ignored. Despite all of the pundit chatter about gun free zones, only 1 in 6 mass murders are public killings. The majority of mass killings are familial murders, where the perpetrator kills multiple family members. Over 80 percent of those familial mass killings occur in the home.
Part of the new group’s mission will be to make it more difficult for domestic abusers to obtain guns. For example, while current federal law bars some domestic abusers from owning firearms, it does not cover abusers who assault former dating partners. Current federal law also does not prohibit men convicted of stalking from obtaining a gun, unless the stalking offense was prosecuted as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
The Women’s Coalition for Common Sense will add another important voice to the gun violence prevention community. Because domestic violence is tragically inter-related with the problem of gun murders, Giffords’ group will be a welcome addition to the nation’s dialogue on guns and how to keep more American women out of harm’s way.