The Invisible Way Guns Are Used To Keep Women In Abusive Relationships. That’s the huffingtonpost.com headline based on “A new study [that] examines how victims of domestic violence are affected by firearms, even if the trigger is never pulled.”
Of course, no anti-gun article based on a scientific study is complete without some initial anecdotal bloody shirt waving . . .
Nicole Beverly, a clinical social worker living in Ypsilanti, Michigan, hadn’t given her husband’s gun much thought until the night he pressed it against her head.
It was 2009. Before that, her husband, a former police officer, had never threatened her with his firearm. It sat in a box in their bedroom closet, almost forgotten. Over the years, she said, he had abused her in other ways: Calling her names, shoving her to the ground, throwing objects in her direction. But the gun never made an appearance.
Once it did, everything changed. From then on Beverly, then 36, couldn’t stop thinking about the weapon, she said. She was acutely aware of its exact location in the house at any given time, in terror of when it might be brandished next.
But he didn’t have to take it out again.
He only needed to mention it and Beverly would shrink. He frequently threatened to kill her, she said, telling her he knew exactly where to shoot to paralyze her. He told her he would disfigure her face, she said, and that she would never see it coming.
It took five months after the incident for her to gather the courage to leave. And when she did she took the gun.
Because Ms. Beverly’s husband couldn’t get access to a firearm if she stole the one she knew about? Obviously not.
Skipping to the bottom of the article we get Ms. Beverly’s realistic appraisal of the dangers presented by a firearm for victims of domestic abuse.
I know how easy it is to obtain a gun legally and illegally. I take all of [my jailed husband’s] previous threats very seriously.
The HuffPo anti-gun diatribe — including quotes from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America jefe Shannon Watts — is based on Guns in Intimate Partner Violence: Comparing Incidents by Type of Weapon, published in Women’s Health. Here’s the money shot:
Of the 35,413 IPV [Intimate Partner Incident] incidents, 8,439 (23.8%) involved a weapon; 6,573 (18.6%) involved hands, fists, or feet; and 1,866 (5.3%) involved an external weapon (i.e., a weapon other than hands, fists, or feet). Of the latter, 576 (30.9%) were guns, that is, 1.6% of all incidents involved a gun.
Though horrific, statistically speaking, you can round down the number of times a gun was used in the 35,413 IPV’s studied — 1.6 percent — to zero. In fact, the whole thrust of the article — guns are a prevalent form of “invisible” intimidation — is statistically unjustifiable. Here’s the math:
A gun or guns were physically present in two-thirds (389 of 576) of the gun-involved incidents. Guns were used most often (69.1%) to threaten or intimidate the intimate partner; the gun was brandished in 42.4% of the gun-involved incidents, and the offender threatened to shoot the victim but did not display a gun in 26.7% of the incidents . . .
In the remaining 5.7% of the incidents considered to involve a gun, the victim was fearful because the offender was known to have or to carry a gun. Whether to include in the analysis these 33 cases in which the victim feared the possibility of gun use would depend largely on the goal of the research.
So 5.7 percent of 1.6 percent of the 35,413 IPV’s studied involved fear of a gun not present during the incident. From that stat, I think we can safely surmise the goal of the study (and the HuffPo article): to promote public support for further gun control. Like this, from the study:
Understanding the scope of gun possession by abusers might encourage some legislatures to extend firearm purchase and possession prohibitions to emergency restraining orders.
In case that barely hidden bias isn’t enough to pull the rug from under the HuffPo article, the report concludes that a gun in the home of an abuser makes it less likely that the victim will experience physical abuse.
In general, violent behaviors by the offender (punching, kicking, etc.) were most common when a bodily weapon alone (hands, fists, or feet) was used, followed by when a nongun external weapon was used, and least common when a gun was used.
The use of an external weapon that was not a gun was associated with the most victim distress, pain, and injury.
Of particular note is the finding that although victims against whom a gun was used were less likely to have visible injuries, they were far more likely to have been threatened and substantially more likely to be frightened.
I don’t see any mention in the report on how the police/authors measured the severity of the fear the abuse victim experienced.
Equally, how can you reconcile “The use of an external weapon that was not a gun was associated with the most victim distress, pain, and injury” with “victims against whom a gun was used . . . were far more likely to have been threatened and substantially more likely to be frightened”?
It’s certainly true that gun-involved domestic abuse creates fear, and fear is corrosive. But the bottom line is clear: “persons who use a gun against their intimate partners are less intent on inflicting physical harm than are those who use another type of weapon [emphasis added]”
Under existing laws, convicted domestic abusers are permanently prohibited persons; they can’t legally purchase or possess a firearm. No matter what you think of that law, and the due process-denying “gun violence restraining orders” promoted by the study’s authors, the findings highlight and quantify an important point.
When it comes to domestic abuse, guns aren’t the problem. Domestic abusers are the problem. As is the inability or unwillingness of victims to leave an abusive relationship. Or, in some cases, fight back.