A man with a piercing stare peers through the blinds and knocks. The woman inside calls 911, voice quivering. “It’s my ex, trying to break in.” The police proceed to ask her questions, slowly. And in the meantime, the man has kicked in the door, grabbed the woman’s child, and pointed a gun at her head.
“Stop gun violence against women,” reads the message at the end of a 30-second TV spot. The grisly ad was produced by the newly formed gun violence group Everytown for Gun Safety, and the it will run in three states where Republican senators are vulnerable to pressure from their constituents on gun safety reform.
Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake (R) — once a popular senator viewed as a rising star — saw his poll numbers drop to the lowest in the country after he voted against the background checks bill that had overwhelming public support. Even Flake reflected after his drop in the polls, “Given the public’s dim view of Congress in general, that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum.” He had earlier claimed he supported expanding background checks, saying, “While we may not agree on every solution, strengthening background checks is something we can agree on.”
Nevada’s Sen. Dean Heller (R) towed a similar line. He, too, claimed to support expanded background checks before voting against the Manchin-Toomey bill last May. And an overwhelming 86 percent of Nevadans supported the bill.
New Hampshire’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) was the only senator in the northeast to vote to block the background checks bill. And she, too, tried to claim support for background check expansion afterward by touting her support for a different Republican bill that included other provisions that would have given those with a history of mental illness more access to guns.
Each of these senators is perceived as politically vulnerable, and Everytown hopes to capitalize on that with its new ad and pressure these senators to support Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) bill to limit the availability of guns for domestic violence. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday.
For women, domestic violence is the greatest risk factor associated with guns. According to Everytown, “The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be murdered,” and some Center for Disease Control statistics suggest more than 50 percent of female homicides are attributable to intimate partner violence.
Klobuchar’s bill, the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, would close gaping holes in background check laws that don’t bar gun ownership by abusive dating partners rather than spouses, and don’t incorporate many stalking crimes.
Domestic violence is one issue where the National Rifle Association has been softening its typical reflexive and vehement opposition to any gun safety bill. In the past few months, three states passed bills to increase domestic violence protection with newfound support from the NRA. But the NRA is thus far continuing to oppose Klobuchar’s bill, saying in a recent letter to senators that the proposal “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.”