Commit to being a gun violence prevention voter

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  • Christie Todd Whitman: The lethal mix of domestic violence and easy access to guns is a quiet crisis
  • Reducing gun violence is a family issue, and it must be a voting issue, she says

Christie Todd Whitman served as the governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001 and is an advisory committee member of the Women's Coalition for Common Sense, the bipartisan initiative founded by former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The views expressed are her own.

(CNN)Last year in a Houston suburb, police arrested a man with a criminal history who couldn't pass a criminal background check but who bought a gun one place where the checks aren't required: through a stranger he met online.

Christie Todd Whitman
Police say he went to his former home, where his ex-girlfriend lived, and killed everyone there: his former girlfriend, her partner, and six of her children.
This lethal mix of domestic violence and easy access to guns is a quiet crisis that rages in our country. Whether a candidate supports responsible steps to address this crisis is something all of us -- responsible gun owners and Second Amendment supporters like me included -- must consider as we cast our ballot.
One in four women in the United States will experience severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner in her lifetime. Access to guns plays a lethal role in turning that violence into murder; the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will die.
The toll of that violence is astounding. From 2001 to 2012, 6,410 American women were shot to death by an intimate partner, more than all the American troops who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. And women in the United States are killed with guns at a rate many times higher than women in our peer countries.
Ensuring that dangerous domestic abusers and convicted stalkers don't have easy access to guns can save lives. Unfortunately, the federal laws on the books fail to take many of these commonsense steps -- and America's women are dying as a result.
First, under current federal law, domestic abusers -- who can't pass a criminal background check at a licensed gun dealer, where they are required of would-be purchasers -- have the option of buying a gun without a background check at a private gun show, or from a stranger they met on the Internet. It is outrageous that an abusive individual considered too violent to purchase a gun from a reputable dealer can obtain one so easily from another source.
Second, people who abuse their intimate partners can often still legally obtain a gun. Right now, federal law prevents individuals who have had protective orders taken out against them, or who have domestic violence convictions, from passing a background check and getting a gun. But the law hasn't been extended to address abuse in dating relationships -- and that means that violent individuals are slipping through the cracks. Dating partner abuse is domestic abuse. Our gun laws should reflect that.
Third, our laws allow individuals with misdemeanor stalking convictions -- even if they plead down from a felony charge, where the facts of the case are not in dispute -- to buy a gun legally. Stalking is a strong predictor of future violence; it makes no sense to allow these individuals to obtain a gun.
In Congress, simple, bipartisan proposals to address these gaps in our laws have already been introduced -- and they have been blocked.
Certainly, responsible solutions like these won't prevent every domestic abuser or stalker from getting their hands on a gun, or prevent every tragedy. But research shows that these kinds of steps would prevent some tragedies and save some lives. And that is, I believe, worth it.
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With our freedom comes responsibility, and part of protecting our Second Amendment means making it hard for irresponsible criminals -- like domestic abusers and stalkers -- to have access to firearms.
If we are serious about combating the scourge of domestic violence and gun murders in our country, then we must ask all candidates where they stand on these issues and consider their positions when we are in the voting booth. Reducing gun violence is a family issue, and it must be a voting issue. No matter their party, we need to vote for those candidates who are willing to take meaningful action to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
If we do, and if we have more of these leaders in office, then maybe during next year's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we can make progress in protecting women and their families from gun violence -- and saving lives. It's certainly why I will be a gun violence prevention voter this November.