This Week in Women: It’s Time to Talk About How Gender Shapes Gun Violence and Global Conflict

This Week in Women is part of a series produced in partnership between Ms. and the Fuller Project for International Reporting. This column is also part of a newsletter; sign up here to receive it regularly.

The gun control debate dominated the news after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day left 17 people, including 14 students, dead. The fact that Nikolas Cruz allegedly stalked and threatened his girlfriend before allegedly opening fire on former classmates, coaches, and teachers, didn’t feature strongly in media coverage this week, even though about a quarter of all mass shootings in the U.S. are committed by perpetrators with a history of domestic violence.

Administrators sent Cruz to other schools due to his erratic and threatening behavior, and his mother called the police more than 30 times, including for incidents classified as domestic disturbances, but it didn’t stop him from buying a gun. Without a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence against a current or former spouse, Cruz could still legally buy a firearm.

This is the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” yet closing this gap in the law hasn’t been raised prominently this week as an effective tool for preventing gun violence, along with banning bump stocks and strengthening background checks. That’s a shame because relative to other issues, there’s quite a lot of bipartisan support around protecting domestic violence victims. More than half of women murdered by men in the U.S. are killed by intimate partners, and in 2015, 55 percent of female victims were killed with a gun. Late last week, Oregon’s House of Representatives passed a bill to close the boyfriend loophole in the state—finally—and banned anyone with a misdemeanor stalking conviction from owning a gun. The legislature was moved to action by the Parkland shootings, however the bill was supported by a female governor, and endorsed last year by Oregon’s National Organization for Women.

Elsewhere in the news, hundreds were killed in Syria earlier this week—including at least 50 women—when forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al Assad launched an intense bombing campaign. More violence is expected in this seven-year conflict. Women remain left out of the numerous failed efforts to end the war and bring peace, and, as two experts from the Council on Foreign Relations write in CNN, women’s participation in peace negotiations makes an agreement 64 percent less likely to fail.

Politico reported Thursday that the upcoming annual State Department report on global human rights is going to replace the phrase “reproductive rights” with “coercion in population control.” This reflects the influence of the U.S. far right, which equates U.S.-supported efforts to supply women with contraception to population coercion. The Fuller Project reported last year on these far-right groups who say the U.S. encourages abortion of female fetuses in China, which has zero evidence.

But in a sign of progress on equal rights for women, investment banks are creating “gender equality ETFs” that allow investors to put their money into a fund that only invests in companies championing gender equality. Last month, Swiss banking giant UBS became the latest firm to offer this investment option, and half of the companies in the fund are U.S.-based.

And this month on the cover of Glamour magazine, our senior global editor Sophia Jones reports on Afghanistan’s only all-female TV news station, whose broadcasts give viewers “a new image of female strength.” Read Sophia’s excellent story here.


Christina Asquith is former editor for Across Women’s Lives at PRI’s The World and founder/editor in chief of the Fuller Project for International Reporting, which contributed this story and which works with Peace Is Loud on women, peace and security issues.