How Guns At Home Can Make Women Less Safe

CREDIT: Shutterstock
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Two-thirds of women who own guns purchased them “primarily for protection against crime,” but studies have found that a gun in the home is associated with a higher risk for intimate partner violence and murder, particularly for women. In its annual review of crime data, the Violence Policy Center finds that there were 1,707 females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents n 2011 that were submitted to the FBI. The review contains some remarkable facts both from its latest review and previous studies on the relationship between gun ownership and violence against women:

  • For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 94 percent of female victims (1,509 out of 1,601) were murdered by a male they knew.
  • For victims who knew their offenders, 61 percent (926) of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.
  • For homicides in which the weapon could be determined (1,551), more female homicides were committed with firearms (51 percent) than with any other weapon.
  • Black females were murdered at a rate more than two and a half times higher than white females.
  • One study that examined the risk factors of violent death for women in the home in three counties found that when there were guns present in the home, the risk of homicide increased more than three times. That study also found that a gun in the home is a key factor in the escalation of nonfatal spousal abuse to homicide.
  • A study of family and intimate assaults in Atlanta found that firearm-associated family and intimate assaults were 12 times more likely to result in death than non-firearm associated assaults between family and intimates.
  • A federal study on homicide among intimate partners found that female intimate partners are more likely to be murdered with a firearm than all other means combined.
  • The Department of Justice has found that women are far more likely to be the victims of violent crimes committed by intimate partners than men, especially when a weapon is involved. The most common place for intimate partner violence against women is the home.
  • Women who were murdered were more likely, not less likely, to have purchased a handgun in the three years prior to their deaths.

The Violence Policy Center concludes that women buying a gun for their protection — particularly from abusive relationships — should think twice before associating guns with safety. “For women in America, guns are not used to save lives, but to take them,” the report states.

Several federal laws are aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of those with a history of abuse, by making protective orders and misdemeanor domestic violence convictions bases for denying a gun purchase. But some states do not make these records available to the national database, and several record-keeping flaws make the database incomplete and difficult to interpret, according to the report.


New legislation introduced in Congress would also extend the gun purchase prohibition to those issued temporary, not just permanent, protective orders, as well as those convicted of misdemeanor stalking crimes. Even without these reforms, domestic violence prohibited categories account for more than 14 percent of rejected federal firearm transfers. Unfortunately, if a victim of abuse purchases the gun for his or her own protection, these laws will do nothing to help.