The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) mourns the loss of the seventeen young people and staff shot to death this week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We know all too well the pain families and communities feel in the aftermath of such tragedies, and we grieve with them. And again, in the aftermath of yet another horrific mass shooting, we face the complicity of legislators who refuse to support measures to keep firearms out of the hands of violent people.
According to a peer, the shooter in Parkland had a history of being abusive to a former girlfriend and he also stalked her. Abusers with firearms pose a threat not only to their victims but to their victims’ friends, families, communities and first responders. In recent years, we have seen a spate of mass shootings by domestic abusers, targeting people other than their victims, including the Pulse Nightclub shooter, the Beltway Sniper, and potentially the Las Vegas shooter. Abusers are dangerous; abusers with firearms are more dangerous still.
February is, by coincidence, Teen Dating VIolence Awareness Month. Teenagers are not immune to intimate partner violence; 20.9% of female high school students and 13.4% of male high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. Under federal law, teens can also own handguns as soon as they turn 18.
According to NCADV’s President and CEO, Ruth Glenn, “Young people who abuse their dating partners can be as dangerous as adults who abuse theirs, which is why federal laws need to be updated to ensure that those convicted of dating violence and stalking cannot possess guns. We need to take action to educate our youth about the dangers of dating violence and where and how to take action. We also need to ensure that violent, abusive partners cannot legally own firearms, let alone assault rifles.”
More than two decades ago, Congress recognized that domestic abusers with guns pose a unique threat to their victims, to their communities, and to law enforcement, and passed legislation prohibiting them from possessing firearms. In the intervening years, it has become more than apparent that dating abusers are equally dangerous. Approximately half of all intimate partner homicides are committed by dating partners. However, despite urging from domestic violence advocates, law enforcement, and others, Congress has failed time and again to pass common sense legislation to prohibit dating abusers and stalkers from possessing firearms.
We call on our supporters to take a stand and do the following:
Take care of yourself and encourage others around you to do the same.
Tell the teachers and educators in your lives/communities about Take A Stand FOR Healthy Relationships, a free and easily integrated curriculum positioned to prevent teen dating violence and teach middle and high school students about healthy relationships.
Call your Members of Congress and demand they update the federal domestic violence firearms prohibitors to include dating violence and to add misdemeanor stalking to the list of prohibiting crimes.