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Giffords urges women to back tougher gun laws

New study finds more women shot and killed by domestic partners than all US soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was nearly killed in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, and has since become a leading advocate for gun control, has embarked upon a campaign that aims to rally women to get behind tougher gun laws. Her efforts come as a new report showed that from 2001 through 2012, more women were shot and killed by intimate partners than all U.S. troops who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

“Women can lead the way,” Giffords told a panel discussion Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

In 2013, efforts to increase the scope of background checks to include online and gun show sales failed just four months after the killing of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

More recently, a California shooter — with the stated intention of taking revenge on women for rejecting him — killed six people near the University of California, Santa Barbara, putting the issue of gun violence against women in the national spotlight.

“Criminals who have guns, stalkers who have guns, abusers who have guns that make them violent are an issue — for mothers, for families, for me and you,” Giffords said.

The report, released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress (CAP), said that in the period from 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were killed by their domestic partners with a firearm, more than all U.S. troops who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The report blamed the high fatality rate on easy access to guns.

U.S. federal law prohibits anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from buying a gun, but CAP said there are many loopholes that allow tens of thousands of known domestic abusers to legally purchase firearms. Others slip through gaps in the background check system, the study said.

“Insufficient and lacking gun laws on both the state and federal levels are at the heart of the problem with gun violence against women in our country,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun-control advocacy group, said in a news release Wednesday. “Women’s lives are on the line and we are going to keep fighting for their safety.”

The vast majority of gun background checks are completed within seconds, CAP said — but for the remaining 8.5 percent whose checks take more than three days, the dealer is allowed to sell the firearm before the results arrive in what is known as a “default proceed.”

Afterward, if the purchaser is found to be unqualified to own a gun, it will be retrieved from him in a “delayed denial” case. The report said a disproportionate amount of those delayed denials involved people who do not have the right to own a gun because of domestic violence.

“Domestic violence perpetrators make up twice the portion of delayed denials as they do for typical denials — meaning those that occur before the buyer walks out of a store with a gun,” the report said.

Violent acts committed by a domestic dating partner, as opposed to a spouse, have increased over the past decade, the report said. Despite that, only 10 states have banned gun possession for misdemeanor domestic abusers in dating relationships.

The report also highlighted the fact that 11,986 convicted stalkers in the United States can walk into a store, pass a background check and purchase a gun legally. Stalking is often the first step to violent crime, CAP added.

Moms Demand Action said six states have passed bipartisan-supported laws aimed at keeping guns out of abusers’ hands.

“In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, a gun-safety advocacy group, said in a Wednesday press release. “It’s clear that strong gun laws make a difference.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., last year introduced a bill to prevent convicted stalkers from buying guns and expanding the definition of domestic violence to dating partners.

Though Giffords, Klobuchar and groups such as Moms Demand Action have advocated for tighter gun control laws to prevent violence against women, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has said that requiring background checks would lead to a national registry that would allow the government to either tax or take the guns.

Instead, the NRA has sponsored shooting clinics where women can learn how to use firearms, and has campaigned to attract female members in an organization that leans heavily male and has over 5 million members.

Americans own an estimated 270 million guns — or 89 per 100 residents — by far the highest per capita number in the world.  

Gun violence kills more than 11,000 a year in the U.S., and an average of five women are murdered with firearms every day, according to the CAP report.

“Women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than are women in other high-income countries,” the study said. “Limiting abusers and stalkers’ access to firearms is therefore critical to reduce the number of women murdered in this country every year.”

With wire services

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