By K. Sujata and Kathleen A. Doherty
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
It's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and with the scandals in the NFL, the nation is finally becoming aware of this epidemic. But one aspect of the issue needs more awareness, and that's the role guns play in turning this violence lethal.
The statistics are horrifyingly real. From 2001 to 2012, the number of women murdered nationwide by intimate partners using guns (6,410) exceeded the number of U.S. troops killed in action in the Iraq and Afghan wars combined.
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Every day in our country, five women are murdered by gunfire.
Anemic gun laws at both the state and federal levels are allowing women to be killed in appalling numbers, according to a recent study by the Center for American Progress entitled "Women Under the Gun."
The study confirms that violence against women is generally a crime of intimacy. In 65 percent of cases, women knew their attackers.
And a staggering proportion of violence against women is fatal, with guns being a key factor in those deaths.
As the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence recognizes, if an abuser owns a firearm, an abused woman is five times more likely to be killed.
Put simply, the presence of guns dramatically increases the probability of death in incidents involving domestic violence.
We must do something about this now.
Members of Congress should pass an amended version of the Domestic Violence Criminal Disarmament Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last year.
In its current form, the bill would give state and local law enforcement the authority to seize firearms or ammunition when responding to domestic violence situations where there is probable cause to believe such firearms have been or are likely to be used to threaten, harass, menace or harm the victim. While law enforcement should be granted this authority, it should ultimately be the victim who decides if weapons ought to be seized.
It is time that we as a nation recognize the clear intersection of intimate partner violence and gun possession. We must enact laws on the state and federal levels that protect women where they live.
Guns are killing women in huge numbers in their homes, where they should be most secure, not most in danger.
Our lawmakers urgently need to respond to this domestic tragedy.
K. Sujata is president and CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women. Kathleen A. Doherty is the executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network.