Gabby, Women Leaders Launch the Bipartisan ‘Women’s Coalition for Common Sense”

October 14, 2015– As the country marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, was joined today by women leaders from across industries and sectors to announce a new national bipartisan coalition of women business, military, law enforcement, and civic leaders who share a commitment to combatting gun violence and domestic abuse. In its work, the coalition will focus on advocating for action on commonsense laws that protect women and families from gun violence, and address the lethal links between access to guns and domestic violence.

The announcement of the new coalition came at the start of a day-long “Domestic Violence Awareness Summit” in the nation’s capital attended by over 100 women from around the country.

“We have a problem in our country. Too many women are dying from gun violence. Guns and domestic violence are a deadly mix. That makes gun violence a women’s issue,”said Congresswoman Giffords. “Women can lead the way. Together, we can change our laws. Together, we can fight for responsible solutions. Please, join your voice with mine.”

The Women’s Coalition for Common Sense, which builds on the success of Congresswoman Giffords’ earlier Protect All Women Network and her nine-state, nine-day national “Protect All Women” tour in October 2014, will focus on engaging women leaders in preventing gun violence. The Coalition will combat gun violence against women and families by urging action to:

  • Prevent stalkers and abusers from having easy access to guns;

  • Close the background check loopholes in our federal laws that let felons and domestic abusers legally buy and own firearms; and,

  • Strengthen existing laws and ensure lawmakers and stakeholders have the resources and training they need to prevent and address gun violence against women.

In addition to Congresswoman Giffords, members of the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense include:

  • The Honorable Gabrielle Giffords, Former Member of Congress

  • The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright, Former United States Secretary of State

  • The Honorable Jennifer Granholm, Former Governor of Michigan

  • The Honorable Carla Hills, Former United States Trade Representative

  • The Honorable Connie Morella, Former Member of Congress & Ambassador in Residence for American University’s Women in Politics Institute

  • The Honorable Ann Veneman, Former United States Secretary of Agriculture

  • The Honorable Christine Todd Whitman, Former Governor of New Jersey

  • Chief Janeé Harteau, Chief of Police for the City of Minneapolis

  • Dr. Ritha Belizaire, Acute Care Surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center

  • Dr. Brittney Cooper, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University

  • Dr. Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke College

  • Dr. Debora Spar, President of Barnard College

  • Gail Becker, President of Strategic Partnerships and Global Integration and Chair of Edelman’s Global Women’s Network

  • Connie Britton, actress and activist

  • Melanie Campbell, President & CEO of the Black Women’s Roundtable

  • Kim Gandy, President & CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence

  • Ruth Glenn, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

  • Mariska Hargitay, actress, director and Founder/President of the Joyful Heart Foundation

  • Nanxi Liu, CEO and Founder of Enplug Technologies

  • Dyllan McGee, Founder and Executive Producer of MAKERS

  • Alyssa Milano, actress and activist

  • Barbara Parker, gun violence prevention advocate; Mother of Virginia Reporter Alison Parker

  • Jennifer Pinckney, gun violence survivor; Wife of the late South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney

  • Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline

  • Neera Tanden, President of Center for American Progress

  • Robyn Thomas, The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

  • Shannon Watts, Founder of Moms Demand Action

  • Hayley Zachary, Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions

“As a law enforcement officer, too many times I’ve seen the tragic and horrific results of gun violence against women and their families. And too many times, I’ve seen just how deadly of a mix that domestic abuse and access to firearms can be,” said Chief Janeé Harteau, Chief of Police for the City of Minneapolis. “I’m proud to join with Gabby and so many other women leaders from around our country as we work to educate our leaders about the problem of gun violence against women and the commonsense solutions they can embrace to help make our communities safer.”

“As we mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’m proud to join with Gabby Giffords and so many other bipartisan women leaders from government, business, and law enforcement to call for some commonsense changes to our laws that will protect women from gun violence,” said Ruth M. Glenn, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We know that gun violence is a complex problem, but we also know that we can take some commonsense steps to make women and families safer.”

“Guns and domestic violence can be a lethal and tragic mix. In a survey conducted by The Hotline, 22 percent of participants said their partners threatened to use a firearm to hurt them, their children, pets or other friends and family members,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “This is why the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense’s mission to keep guns out of the hands of abusers and stalkers is so critical. I’m proud to join with these incredible women to call for change that will help save lives.”

Women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered by a gun than women in other high-income countries, and abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm. In 36 states, more than half of intimate partner-related homicides of women in each state involved a gun. In addition, stalking affects one in six women in the United States, and more than three-quarters female intimate partner homicide victims were stalked prior to being murdered.

Current federal law prohibits convicted domestic abusers from legally buying guns. However, individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanor stalking are not prohibited from purchasing firearms; they can still pass a background check and buy a gun through the so-called ‘stalker gap’. Another gap in federal law exists where the law prevents convicted domestic abusers from firearms access but excludes those in dating relationships from that same protection. This leaves women in dating relationships who are not married, do not live with their partner, or do not share a child in common vulnerable to abuse that can be lethal. In fact, in 2008, nearly half of all domestic violence homicides were committed against a current or former dating partner.

Additionally, convicted domestic abusers (who are prohibited from gun access) can evade the law and still purchase a gun at a gun show or on the Internet, where sales of guns do not require a background check.

But the momentum for action is growing. As of October 2015, bills addressing the nexus of domestic abuse and gun violence have passed or been introduced in 24 state legislatures. In 2014 alone, large bipartisan majorities in six states – Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Washington – passed new laws to better protect victims of domestic violence. So far in 2015 alone, Oregon and Delaware have both passed laws to limit abusers access to firearms.

ABOUT THE NEXUS OF GUN VIOLENCE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Women in the United States Are Eleven Times More Likely to be Murdered with a Gun Than Women in Other Developed Countries. More than half of all murders of America’s women are committed with a gun. [Centers for Disease Control, 2012] More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011]In 2013, a gun was the most commonly used weapon in a murder of a woman by a man. [Violence Policy Center, 2015]

Abused Women in the United States Are Five Times More Likely to be Killed by Their Abuser if That Individual Has Access to a Gun. [Centers for Disease Control, 2012]

Nearly Half of Murders by an Intimate Partner Are Committed by a Dating Partner – But the “Boyfriend Gap” in Federal Law Lets Abusive Dating Partners Access Guns: From 2009 to 2010, 48.6 percent of all intimate partner homicides were committed by a dating partner. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011] Current federal law prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses from accessing firearms, including individuals who are a current or former spouse, parent, parent of a child in common, current or former cohabitant, or a personal similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim. But federal law does not include perpetrators who abused current or former dating partners from accessing guns. With more women choosing to marry later in life and live in non-cohabitating dating relationships, this gap leaves a significant number of abusers free to access firearms. [Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence]

Stalking Is A Strong Predictor of Future Violence – But the “Stalker Gap” in Federal Law Lets Some Convicted Stalkers Access Guns: Stalking is a strong precursor to escalating violence. One study of female murder victims in ten cities found that 76 percent of women murdered and 85 percent who survived a murder attempt by a current or former intimate partner experienced stalking in the year preceding the murder. [Homicide Studies, 1999] Under current federal law, individuals convicted of felony stalking offenses are prohibited from accessing guns. But individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking offenses are not prohibited from accessing guns. Closing the “stalker gap” in federal law would help ensure that all individuals convicted of stalking offenses are prohibited from accessing firearms. [Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence]

In the Face of Inaction in Congress, Blue, Purple and Red States Are Enacting Laws to Close These Loopholes and Limit Abusers’ and Stalkers’ Access to Guns. While each state has taken a distinct approach to strengthening laws that address gun violence against women, state leaders are addressing major gaps in federal law to help protect vulnerable women and families. At least 12 states have updated their laws to prohibit people convicted of violent misdemeanors against dating partners from possessing firearms. And 25 states prohibit gun possession by at least some people subject to protective orders for dating partners. In the last two years, leaders from both parties have enacted legislation addressing the often lethal mix of domestic violence and access to firearms in a number of states, including AlabamaLouisiana, Nevada,OregonSouth CarolinaVermontWashington, and Wisconsin.

Americans from Both Parties Support Legislation Limiting Abusers’ and Stalkers’ Access to Guns. According to research conducted in June 2015, 82 percent of Americans – including 82 percent of Republicans – say they would support legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers. [Public Policy Polling]