Protecting Domestic Abuse Victims from Gun Violence

The Supreme Court made Monday a great day for women. The Court reaffirmed a woman’s right to an abortion by overturning Texas’ clinic shutdown law. The Court denied review of regulations providing basic workplace protections, such as overtime pay, to homecare workers (a mostly female workforce). And, the Court upheld the interpretation of federal law that individuals convicted of reckless misdemeanor domestic abuse are not allowed to purchase or own a gun.

In the case Voisine v. United States, two men with misdemeanor convictions in Maine for domestic assault were convicted of violating federal law by owning guns. This federal law, known as the Lautenberg Amendment, prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from owning guns. The petitioners argued that the Lautenberg Amendment does not prevent them from owning guns because, under Maine law, their convictions could be based on reckless domestic assault, rather than intentional domestic assault.

In a decision written by Justice Kagan, the Court held that the federal ban on gun ownership applies to individuals convicted of reckless domestic assault as well as intentional domestic assault. As Justice Kagan wrote:

The harm such conduct causes is the result of a deliberate decision to endanger another—no more an “accident” than if the “substantial risk” were “practically certain.”

In other words, an individual convicted of reckless domestic assault knowingly took action that put another person at risk. Any harm that comes from such action is not an accident.

This decision is extraordinarily important to domestic abuse victims. Here are some statistics that show just how important:

  1. The risk of homicide in domestic violence situations increases by 500 percent when a gun is present.
  1. More intimate partners have been murdered with guns than all other weapons combined over the last 25 years.
  1. The number of women killed by their intimate partner with a gun between 2001 and 2012 was higher than the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iran and Afghanistan wars during the same period.
  1. 16 percent of attackers in mass shootings from 2009 to 2015 had a previous charge of domestic violence.

Simply put, Monday’s Supreme Court decision will save women’s lives.