Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by BVN
S. E. Williams
If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence, local and statewide resources can be found here..
Of the estimated 4,970 female victims of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in 2021, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics, law enforcement agency reports indicated that 34% of these women were killed by an intimate partner compared to roughly 6% of the 17,970 males murdered that year who were victims of intimate partner homicide.
Women in this country are more likely to be murdered during pregnancy or soon after childbirth than to die from the three leading obstetric causes of maternal death including high blood pressure disorders, hemorrhage, or sepsis according to experts. Sadly, most of these homicides are connected to the lethal combination of firearms and intimate partner violence according to a 2022 report by the Harvard School of Public Health.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments urging the court to reverse a decision that could potentially endanger domestic violence victims by allowing firearms to remain in the hands of their abusers.
The case involves a ruling by the 5th District Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Rahimi, that would invalidate a federal law prohibiting adjudicated domestic abusers (someone found guilty) subject to Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVROs) from possessing firearms.
In its decision, the Fifth Circuit vacated the criminal conviction of a defendant who had possessed a firearm while subject to a DVRO. The DVRO was issued against him after it was determined he had assaulted his ex-girlfriend and would likely to do so again.
A quest to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s ruling–along with the potential fate of untold numbers of domestic violence victims around the nation–now rests in the hands of an extremely conservative panel of U.S. Supreme Court justices. If their previous rulings in cases involving women is any indication of their leaning in this case, it raises justifiable concern.
A recently released CA Department of Justice (CA DOJ) Office of Gun Violence Prevention report offers an in-depth look at the connections between domestic violence and firearms. The report highlights how “over the past decade, a majority of all female homicide victims in CA were killed by a current or former intimate partner or family member, and a majority of child homicide victims between the ages of one and 14 were killed by a family member.”
California, like elsewhere in the country, also experienced substantial increases in domestic violence-related calls for law enforcement assistance related to the reported use or threatened use of firearms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Court records also showed a 17% decrease in the number of cases filed seeking protections of a DVRO in the state during the pandemic. Some experts believe this may have been due in part to victims being shut in with their abusers during the COVID-19 stay at home order, thus limiting victims’ ability to seek help.
At the county level in the Inland Empire, domestic violence-related calls for law enforcement assistance during the period 2018-2022 in Riverside County totalled 34,464 with 212 of those calls involving firearms. During the same period, San Bernardino County experienced 41,896 domestic violence calls, 676 of them involved firearms.
Despite these sobering local numbers, California has made significant long-term progress in reducing the incidents of domestic violence involving firearms and in reducing gun homicide rates for women and children. According to CA DOJ, from 1993 to 2019, the state noted “a 63% reduction in per capita rates of domestic violence-related calls for law enforcement assistance involving firearms, a 61% reduction in domestic violence-related gun homicides, a 67% reduction in female-victim gun homicide rates, and an 80% reduction in gun homicide rates for children aged 14 and under.”
These numbers are encouraging, but in reality, if you are a victim of domestic violence today, these numbers don’t protect you from the scourge of abuse. We must find a way to end this cycle of violence primarily against women and children.
I commend CA Attorney General Rob Bonta for standing with victims of domestic violence as the Supreme Court considers U.S. v. Rahimi. Last week Bonta joined a a coalition of 25 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the case. The brief urged the nation’s highest court to strike down the decision by the appellate court.
Having been raised in a home with a domestic abuser I know too well the courage it took for my mother to leave an abusive relationship with six young children in tow. Experts say it takes an average of seven times, meaning for some–it takes even more attempts. I applaud Bonta’s attention to this important issue.
If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence, local and statewide resources can be found here. Believe me, I know first hand that there is a way out and you don’t have to do it alone.
As always, I’m keeping it real.