How Men Can Use a Gun to Abuse Women Without Ever Firing It

October 4th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

The relationship between guns and domestic violence is a common topic in the gun control debate, but the discussion usually focuses on firearm deaths. When a gun is present in a domestic violence incident the chance of murder increases by 500 percent, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.


However there's a more common way guns are being used to control female victims of domestic abuse, and it may surprise you.

The Trace, a non-profit news publication dedicated to covering gun violence and gun policy, reported that an estimated 4.5 million women living in the U.S today have been threatened, coerced, or bullied with a gun by an abusive partner, according to new findings by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. That's compared to the 1 million women who survived being shot or shot at.

The analysis focused on 10 research articles about domestic violence that reported the non-fatal use of guns against women in abusive relationships. The non-fatal use included both battering with the gun and bullying and coercion with the gun.

Ruth M. Glenn, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence told ATTN: that abusers use a gun to create an atmosphere of fear. "I know of a woman who was in a situation where the gun was just kept as a reminder that something could happen, if the situation changed in that relationship." she said. "Sometimes victims are not even aware that guns are being used as a tool of control."

The constant fear of lethal violence can make women afraid to leave and for good reason: about 75 percent of women who are killed during an abusive relationship are murdered when they try to leave.

Glenn said that the same gun used to create fear can turn lethal.

"The victim finally decides that she's going to leave and she probably thought about the gun all along," she said. "But now the abuser decides to use the gun."

After elevator security footage became public of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé unconscious, women used the hashtag #WhyIStayed to explain the fear and control of abusive relationships.

Women are still using the hashtag to talk about domestic violence.


On average, nearly 20 people are physically abused by a partner every minute in the U.S., according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Gun control and domestic violence are linked.

Glenn said that domestic violence and gun control policy need to be addressed together.

"I think that we need to close the loopholes," said Glenn. She added that she believes comprehensive background checks and effective gun confiscation from domestic abusers need to be a priority.

"We need to take stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence much more seriously."

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