We Applaud SCOTUS’ 8-1 Decision to Uphold Federal Protections for IPV Survivors

The Action Alliance commends the US Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision in United States v. Rahimi. This ruling protects survivors of intimate partner violence by upholding the federal prohibition preventing people subject to protective orders from possessing firearms. As Virginia’s leading voice on sexual and domestic violence, the Action Alliance supports policies that enact measures to remove firearms from dangerous and potentially lethal situations and give law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and courts additional tools to protect victims, their families, and the broader community.

Guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination. The presence of a firearm makes it five times more likely that a victim is going to die at the hands of their abuser. And in Virginia, nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of all intimate partner violence homicide victims are killed with a firearm with 83% of these homicides occurring in the home.[1] Protective orders restricting firearm access are associated with a 12% reduction in intimate partner homicide according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. Taking guns out of the equation in this dangerous environment saves lives. And not just in the home, but also in the community at large.

According to a recent study, 59% of mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 were domestic violence-related and in 68.2% of mass shootings, the perpetrator either killed at least one partner or family member or had a history of domestic violence. The study also notes that domestic violence-related mass shootings have a higher average case fatality rate (83.7%) than non-domestic violence related mass shootings (63.1%).[2]

Abusers also use guns to threaten and intimidate their partners, essentially turning the firearm into a tool to exert their control and dominance over their victims. Everytown for Gun Safety notes that an estimated 13.6% of American women have been threatened by an intimate partner with a firearm, and 43% of these have been physically injured with a firearm (shot, pistol whipped, sexually assaulted, etc.).[3] A study by Harvard School of Public Health also notes that “hostile gun displays against family members are more common than gun use in self-defense, and that these are acts of domestic violence directed against victims.”[4]

The number of gun-related deaths and mass shootings in America has grown almost every year since 2014, according to the Gun Violence Archive,[5] and Americans have noticed and want the government to do something about it. According to a 2023 survey[6] from the Pew Research Center, 60% of U.S. adults say gun violence is a major problem in this county, and an October 2023 Gallup poll notes that a similar percentage (56%) support stricter gun laws.  

One crucial way to ensure safety in our communities is by enforcing and implementing Virginia’s firearms and protective order laws. The Action Alliance continues to be committed to working alongside judges, law enforcement, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, advocates and systems partners to support robust and effective implementation of the law. For more information on this work and best practices in Virginia, visit: https://vsdvalliance.org/resource/firearms-restrictions-and-protective-orders-in-virginia/

[1] 2018 Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Report, Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

[2] Geller, L.B., Booty, M. & Crifasi, C.K. The role of domestic violence in fatal mass shootings in the United States, 2014–2019. Inj. Epidemiol. 8, 38 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40621-021-00330-0

[3] Adhia, A., Lyons, V. H., Moe, C. A., Rowhani-Rahbar, A., & Rivara, F. P. (2021). Nonfatal use of firearms in intimate partner violence: Result of a national survey. Preventive Medicine.   https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106500

[4] Deborah Azrael and David Hemenway, “‘In the Safety of Your Own Home’: Results from a National Survey on Gun Use at Home,” Social Science & Medicine 50 (2000): 285-291.

[5] https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

[6] https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/09/13/key-facts-about-americans-and-guns/

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