Rising Gun Ownership, Incidents of Domestic Violence, and How Women Pay the Price

New data suggests enhanced gun measures are effective at curbing homicides of women in domestic violence situations involving firearms.

 Nearly 2,000 Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers gathered in Washington D.C. in December 2019 for Gun Sense University—an annual training conference. While there, news broke about the shooting in El Paso, Texas, that took 20 lives and injured 26 more. (Instagram)

Collective change and trauma took place over the year and a half since COVID-19 appeared—the most notable and obvious being a global pandemic with unparalleled loss of life. However, two additional trends pose life-and-death concerns for the 51 percent of the U.S. population who identify as female: increased firearm purchases and domestic violence incidents. 

More Guns, More Domestic Violence?

The U.S. saw a 64 percent jump in firearm purchases since the pandemic. Domestic violence rose by over 8 percent over the same period.

Of all the murder-suicides that occur between intimate partners, 95 percent of the victims are women and 92 percent of those women are killed by a firearm—meaning women are unquestionably the majority of victims in domestic violence. It may come as no surprise, then, that women tend to be more likely than men to support gun control measures, particularly regional gun laws could impact their safety (and lives).

State-by-State Analysis

While state data related to homicides of women from domestic violence incidents is essentially non-existent, the FBI does release data on how many women were killed by men in 2018 (in general) by each state. If you then pair that information with additional factors, such as state-by-state gun control measures, you can start making some educated observations. 

The following 10 states have the highest values for homicide rate per 100,000 females, according to the 2020 FBI report, “When Men Murder Women“:

  1. Alaska = 3.40
  2. Missouri = 2.34
  3. Oklahoma = 2.31
  4. New Mexico = 2.27
  5. Louisiana = 2.26
  6. Arkansas = 2.22
  7. Nevada = 2.18
  8. North Dakota = 2.16
  9. Tennessee = 2.02
  10. Montana = 1.71

While those figures don’t specifically attribute each homicide to a domestic violence incident using a firearm, one can deduce from the nature of the crime—an individual male killing an individual female—that the majority could be domestic situations. (Remember that when women are killed by their intimate partner, 92 percent of those offenders use a firearm.)

A state-by-state breakdown comparing gun control measures to gun-related homicides by state reveals which gun control safety measures are in place—or not in place—across U.S. states. Two important ones: having requirements for purchasing firearms, and background checks for private party purchases.

Nine of the top 10 states for female homicide rates—Alaska, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Dakota, Tennessee and Montana—all have no restrictions or requirements in these areas.

Nevada is the only state on the top 10 list that requires background checks for private-party firearm purchases—but as this was only enacted in 2020, the effects of the new law are still developing. 

The top 5 safest states, using a homicide rate per 100,000 women, are:

  1. Iowa = .38
  2. South Dakota = .46
  3. Massachusetts = .51
  4. Rhode Island = .55
  5. New York = .69

With the exception of South Dakota (the unexplainable anomaly here), the other four states have restrictions on purchasing firearms and require background checks for private party purchases—suggesting enhanced gun measures are effective at curbing homicides of women in domestic violence situations involving firearms.

While a violent partner could use any number of other objects to harm their significant other, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

How Policy Can Help Victims of Domestic Violence 

Firearm ownership and the Second Amendment have been very polarizing topics for decades. But state-by-state homicide rates suggest having the ability to cross-reference prospective gun owners for past criminal violations or mental health screenings are steps that help minimize homicides of women in domestic violence situations.

A gun control demonstration after the December 2019 mass shooting in El Paso. (Instagram)

This is not to say that firearms should be illegal or the Second Amendment should be dissolved, as that will certainly not happen in the United States, but how can we make the culture of firearm ownership more safe? Expanding requirements for new firearm purchases and performing background checks for firearm sales are two proven ways to minimize risk for women to become victims.

A woman in Alaska is at a nearly nine times greater risk of dying by a firearm held by her intimate partner than her peers in Iowa. While gun control measures won’t magically stop all domestic violence or homicides of women, if it can improve their chances of enjoying a full life without the threat of firearm violence, that’s a step state lawmakers should take.     

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Brian Joslyn, Esq. is a writer, family man, and the founding attorney of a collection of law firms throughout the state of Ohio. Together with his team, they have handled over 15,000 cases in the central Ohio Courts in a variety of legal sectors. Their expertise in both criminal law and family law have provided them with a multi-faceted perspective of the legal system. While not claiming to be perfect, he likes to share recommendations from his learned experiences for improved quality of life and safety.