A New Tool to Disarm Domestic Abusers

Chnika Clark had made a fresh start for herself and her child. After years of dealing with her partner’s manipulative behavior and infidelity, she had finally had enough. She broke up with him, moved into her own place and got a new job.

Everything was going well—until she woke up in the middle of the night on November 18, 2014. Her ex was standing over her and pointing a gun at her head. Over the next several hours, he threatened her, tied her up, hit her and raped her. He demanded to know the name of the man she was seeing; when she told him she wasn’t seeing anyone, he became even more enraged.

In the early hours of the morning, he shot her in the leg and the chest before shooting and killing himself. Clark was bleeding profusely and transported to the hospital. Though the doctors initially thought she wouldn’t make it, she survived her injuries.

Clark calls her recovery “miraculous;” indeed, many women in the United States do not survive such abuse. Guns and domestic violence are a deadly combination. Every 16 hours, an American woman is shot and killed by her intimate partner, and more than half of all women murdered in the United States are killed by an intimate partner with a gun.

A collaborative art installation of shoes was displayed in the UK to remember the 100+ women who have lost their lives this year as a result of domestic violence. Each pair of shoes represented a women who has lost their life as a result of gender based violence in 2018. In the U.S., loopholes in existing gun laws allow abusers to obtain firearms, putting their partners at extreme risk of injury and death. (Newcastle / Creative Commons)

Though the gun lobby often tries to tell women that guns will protect them from abusers, the facts tell a different story. The chance of being murdered by an abusive partner actually increases five-fold when there is a gun in the home, and even when guns aren’t discharged, abusers frequently use firearms to threaten, manipulate and control their victims.

Policies that prohibit abusers from purchasing or possessing guns are effective at reducing intimate partner homicide, but laws regarding firearm removal often vary dramatically between states, and it can be difficult for survivors and those assisting them to know what removal laws exist in their states.

That’s where Disarm Domestic Violence comes in.

Disarm Domestic Violence—the product of a collaboration between the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, and Prosecutors Against Gun Violence (PAGV)—demystifies state laws around domestic violence restraining order firearm removal. The user-friendly portal, which features interactive map that allows users to view laws state-by-state, is a one-stop shop for survivors and advocates alike looking to strengthen the laws in place to protect women from violent abusers.

We have lost too many people to intimate partner homicide committed with firearms. We have seen too many people terrorized by abusers with guns. Stories like Clark’s remind us that everyday gun violence—the kind that happens behind closed doors, in neighborhoods and even in public places—is an urgent threat to our society’s well-being.

We believe that no one should have to navigate this process alone, and that no one should have to live in fear. Legislators, journalists, survivors and their allies deserve accessible information about the firearm removal process—and it is our hope that Disarm Domestic Violence can provide much-needed information and empower the activists working to take guns out of the hands of abusers.

Kelly Roskam is the legal director for the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

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