Guns and Relationship Violence

by: Rowan McKenna

In the wake of the school shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, debates around gun violence have reached a new fervor. As mass shootings become more and more common, we as a culture are trying to understand why someone would do something like this, and how we can prevent it from happening again in the future.

The current conversation on how to prevent these horrific tragedies focuses mainly on issues of mental illness, background checks, and the availability of semi-automatic weaponry. Though these are important issues to consider when we discuss the terrifying increase in mass shootings, there is one key factor that we continually overlook: the link between gun violence and relationship violence.

The unfortunate reality is that the majority of mass killings are committed by individuals who have a history of relationship violence, and this trend becomes obvious when we examine recent mass shootings. The former wife of Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people and injured 53 others at the Orlando nightclub shooting, claimed that Mateen beat her, confiscated her paychecks, and isolated her in their home. Stephen Paddock, the man responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in American history, was known to verbally abuse his girlfriend in public. And Nikolas Cruz, the teen shooter who killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, physically abused a former girlfriend and terrorized her by threatening her family and friends.

An analysis of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 showed that shooters killed a family member, partner, or former partner in 54% of mass shootings. Women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed than women in other developed nations, and more than two-thirds of women who die as a result of gun violence are killed by their partners. Everytown for Gun Safety states that “the presence of a gun makes it five times more likely domestic violence will turn deadly.”

Although it is vital that we address things like mental health support systems, school security, and background checks when we talk about gun violence, we must also acknowledge the importance of teaching youth about dating violence and healthy relationships. The combination of guns and relationship violence is lethal. In order to put a stop to mass shootings, we must create a culture in which abuse is not tolerated.

At the Katie Brown Educational Program, we empower youth with the necessary skills to develop healthy relationships. We believe that prevention education can change negative attitudes and behaviors. Help support us in our mission of violence prevention by donating here.