Once again, a senseless act of gun violence has left the California community of San Bernardino reeling. This morning, a gunman entered North Park Elementary School, made his way to the classroom where his estranged wife, Karen Elaine Smith, was teaching a class for students with special needs, and opened fire before turning the gun on himself.
Smith was killed, along with one of her eight-year-old students, and another student was critically wounded and remains hospitalized. The shooting is the 12th school shooting of 2017. America is averaging more than three incidents with guns in schools per month. Our nation simply cannot continue like this—it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns in order to commit heartbreaking, irreversible damage to families and communities.
Police report this incident was an act of domestic violence. Armed domestic abusers, like the suspect in yesterday’s shooting, pose a particular risk to the public, law enforcement, and especially to their partners. Women are murdered with a gun once every five hours in the United States, often at the hands of an abusive spouse or domestic partner. Research shows:
- Over the past 25 years, more intimate partner homicides in the United States have been committed with guns than with all other weapons combined.
- More than three times as many women are murdered with guns used by their husbands or intimate partners than are killed by strangers’ weapons combined.
- Abusers are five times more likely to murder their intimate partners if a firearm is in the home than if no firearm is present.
- 57% of mass shootings begin as domestic violence incidents
Responding to domestic violence calls is a significant and often dangerous part of law enforcement officers’ duties as well. Nationally, 15% to 40% of all calls for police assistance are domestic disputes, and research has shown that family violence calls are “the most dangerous type of call for the responding officers.” In a 2016 report on officers who were killed responding to a family violence call, all but one of the officers examined was killed with a firearm.
Yesterday our nation was reminded, yet again, that a gun in the hands of a domestic abuser can wreak unspeakable terror on the most innocent of victims. It’s time our lawmakers have the courage to do more than offer their thoughts and prayers to those who survive terrible events like this—it is time to take action. We must demand that our elected leaders stand up for victims of domestic violence by passing the smart gun laws that keep guns out of the hands of abusers and keep our communities safe.