While it often seems like there’s no rhyme or reason to mass shootings, there is at least one commonality among many of the perpetrators: a history of violence against the women in their lives.
This past Sunday, 26 people were killed and 20 were injured in a church Sutherland Springs, Tex. It quickly emerged that the shooter, a man by the name of Devin Kelley, was a domestic abuser. While serving in the Air Force, he was court-martialed on charges of domestic assault after he beat, choked and threatened his wife with a gun, as well as fractured her son’s skill.
He’s not the only shooter to have exhibited violent behavior towards his intimate partner. The gunmen responsible for deaths in Las Vegas, Orlando, and San Bernadino all have histories of abusing women. But the evidence isn’t simply anecdotal; here are just a few statistics that illustrate how closely linked domestic violence and mass shootings really are.
1. The majority of mass shooters in the U.S. killed their intimate partners or family members.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, mass shooters killed a partner or family member in 54% of shootings—which are defined as incidents in which four or more people are killed by guns. Between January 2009 and December 2016, 422 people were killed in domestic violence disputes; more than 40% of these people were children.
2. About 4.5 million American women report that they have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Susan Sorenson and Rebecca Schut determined that although the number of women shot dead by their partners is in the hundreds, the number threatened is in the millions.
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3. Nearly half of American women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 45% of female homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner in 2007. On the flip side, partners were responsible for 5% of the homicides of men that year. The risk of death increases five-fold when an abuser has access to a firearm.
4. Homicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women between 18 and 44.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2015, homicide caused the death of 3,519 girls and women in the U.S.
5. American women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed nations.
In a 2016 white paper, University of San Francisco’s Erin Grinshteyn and Harvard University’s David Hemenway compared gun violence in the U.S. to gun violence in other OECD countries between 2003 and 2010. They found that overall, homicide rates in the U.S. were seven times higher than in other high-income countries—and the gun homicide rate was 25 times higher.