Skip to main content

Guns killing women: Time for Congress to act

By Gabrielle Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
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
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 7:12 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT