Intimate partner violence against women is all too common and takes many forms. The most serious is homicide by an intimate partner.a Although firearms are used in a relatively small percentage of domestic violence incidents, guns can easily turn domestic violence into domestic homicide. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on homicide among intimate partners found that female intimate partners are more likely to be murdered with a firearm than all female homicide victims. The study finds that “the figures demonstrate the importance of reducing access to firearms in households affected by IPV [intimate partner violence].”b
In addition, gun use does not have to result in a fatality to involve domestic violence. A 2000 study by Harvard School of Public Health researchers analyzed gun use at home and concluded that “hostile gun displays against family members may be more common than gun use in self-defense, and that hostile gun displays are often acts of domestic violence directed against women.”c
Additionally, a study by the Department of Justice found that women were far more likely to be the victim of violent crimes committed by intimate partners than were men, especially when a weapon was involved. Moreover, women were much more likely to be victimized at home than in any other place.d Finally, estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) indicate that from 1993 to 1998, women were victims of violent crimes by their intimate partners an average of more than 935,000 times a year.e
Women must consider the risks of having a gun in their home, whether they are in a domestic violence situation or not. While this study does not focus solely on domestic violence homicide, it provides a stark reminder that domestic violence and guns form a deadly combination. Firearms are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes.f Instead, they are all too often used to inflict harm on the very people they were intended to protect.
When Men Murder Women is an annual report prepared by the Violence Policy Center detailing the reality of homicides committed against women. The study analyzes the most recent Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).g The information used for this report is for the year 2000. Once again, it is the most recent data available. This is the first analysis of the 2000 data on female homicide victims to offer breakdowns of cases in the 15 states with the highest female victim/male offender homicide rates, and the first to rank the states by the rate of these female homicides.
This study examines only those instances involving one female homicide victim and one male offender. This is the exact scenarioï¿½the lone male attacker and the vulnerable womanï¿½that is used by the gun lobby to promote gun ownership among women.
In 2000, there were 1,805 females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents that were submitted to the FBI for its Supplementary Homicide Report.h These highlights from the report, expanded upon in the following sections, dispel many of the myths propounded by the gun lobby regarding the nature of lethal violence against women:
- Nearly 11 times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,551 victims) than were killed by male strangers (142 victims).
- Sixty two percent (963) of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintancesi of their killers.
- There were 331 women shot and killed by either their husband or intimate acquaintance during the course of an argumentï¿½nearly one woman a day.
- More female homicides were committed with firearms (52 percent) than with all other weapons combined. Of the homicides committed with firearms, 76 percent were committed with handguns.
- In 88 percent of all incidents where the circumstances could be determined, homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery.
The study also analyzes available information on the murders of black females. Not surprisingly, these homicides mirror the trends for women overall: most homicides against women are not committed by strangers, but by men known to the victims.
a) An intimate partner or intimate acquaintance is defined as a spouse, common-law spouse, ex-spouse, or girlfriend/boyfriend.
b) Leonard J. Paulozzi et al, “Surveillance for Homicide Among Intimate Partnersï¿½United States, 1981-1998,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Surveillance Summaries, 50 (SS03) October 12, 2001, 1 -16.
c) Deborah Azrael and David Hemenway, “ï¿½In the Safety of Your Own Home’: Results from a National Survey on Gun Use at Home,” Social Science & Medicine 50 (2000): 285-291.
d) Diane Craven, “Sex Differences in Violence Victimization, 1994,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Washington DC, September 1997.
e) Callie Marie Rennison, “Intimate Partner Violence,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Washington DC, May 2000.
f) According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Supplementary Homicide Report, in 2000 there were only 137 justifiable homicides (the justified killing of a felon during the commission of a felony) committed by private citizens using firearms. Of these, only 122 involved handguns. While firearms are at times used by private citizens to kill criminals or to stop crimes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the most common scenarios of gun use in America are suicide (16,586 in 2000), homicide (10,801 in 2000), or fatal unintentional injury (776 in 2000). The April 1994 Justice Department study Guns and Crime revealed that from 1987 to 1992, the annual average of all victims of violence who claimed to have used a firearm of any type (handgun, shotgun, or rifle) to defend themselves was only about one percent (62,200 instances). Another 20,300 claimed to have used a firearm to defend their property during a theft, household burglary, or motor vehicle theft. Also, it is not known whether the gun was successfully used to stop the particular crime. In comparison, Guns and Crime reported that offenders armed with handguns alone committed a record 930,700 violent crimes in 1992.
g) The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program collects basic information on serious crimes from participating police agencies and records supplementary information about the circumstances of homicides in its unpublished Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). Submitted monthly, supplementary data consists of: the age, sex, race, and ethnicity of both victims and offenders; the types of weapons used; the relationship of victims to offenders; and, the circumstances of the murders. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, supplementary data are provided on only a subset of homicide cases. Additionally, SHR data are updated throughout the year as homicide reports are forwarded by state UCR programs.
h) In 2000 the state of Florida did not submit any data to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report. Data from Florida was not requested individually because the difference in collection techniques would cause a bias in the study results.
i) Intimate acquaintance is defined as a wife, common-law wife, ex-wife, or girlfriend.