White House Launches Initiative To Keep Guns Out Of The Hands Of Domestic Abusers

Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new gun violence prevention initiative on Wednesday aimed at addressing issues of intimate partner violence. By helping local government officials better identify high-risk offenders and their potential victims, the new Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative hopes to prevent gun-related domestic homicides:

The program will help law enforcement and social service officials identify vulnerable women who may be in potentially fatal abusive relationships and connect them with law enforcement, prosecutors, court personnel and other service providers. As part of the initiative, the Justice Department will distribute a total of $2.3 million in one-year grants to 12 counties and municipalities. […]

The vice president noted that from 2009 to 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings — those with four or more victims killed — started with the shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife or ex-wife, according to the White House. And Biden repeated a factoid — often noted by advocates for tighter gun control such as the Mayors Against Illegal Guns — that in states that require a background check for private handgun sales, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners.“The issue of domestic violence and reducing gun violence are connected,” Biden said. “That’s why the president and I believe that every person who buys a gun — every person — should have a criminal background check.”

The announcement comes the same week that legislation to expand background checks to almost all gun purchases is beginning to advance in Congress.


A similar initiative to make sure domestic abusers can’t easily access firearms is making its way through the Colorado legislature. Local law enforcement often mishandle sexual assault cases, but more training — through local VAWA grants as well as through these new initiatives — could help start to change that.

In recent months, gun issues and domestic violence issues have become particularly intertwined — but not in the same way that Biden and Holder are approaching them. On the other side of the issue, gun advocates have attempted to construe increased access to firearms, particularly concealed carry laws on college campuses, as a “women’s issue” because they claim guns are necessary to help protect women against sexual assault. But hidden guns won’t actually do anything to help address rape culture. In fact, as Biden pointed out, those weapons typically end up being used against victims of domestic abuse themselves. Abusers who have access to a gun are more than seven times more likely to kill their partners.