Jan 21, 2010
CONTACT Luci Manning

Guns and Domestic Violence Are a Lethal Combination, Expert Says, Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Chicago’s Handgun Ban

Family Violence Prevention Fund Attorney Jennifer L. White issued the following statement today at the 78th Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C.:

“Good morning. I am Jennifer White, attorney for Legal Programs at the Family Violence Prevention Fund. We are a 30-year-old organization dedicated to preventing domestic, dating and sexual violence and helping victims. We joined with other non-profit public interest groups in an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in McDonald vs. Chicago because guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination that injure or kill women in this country every day.

Few people in this region can forget the tragedy endured by Lisa Spicknall, a mother and now an advocate for victims of abuse in Maryland. Several years ago, Lisa’s husband was subject to a domestic violence protection order which should have prevented him from obtaining a firearm. But he was able to procure one, due to a clerical error. With that gun, he shot and killed their two children during visitation. Sadly, stories like Lisa’s occur in this country nearly every day.

Congress has recognized the uniquely potent and lethal threat that access to firearms creates for victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking. To try to mitigate that threat, the Violence Against Women Act and the federal Gun Control Act include provisions that prohibit perpetrators who are subject to qualifying protection orders, or who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, from possessing firearms. Those provisions are groundbreaking and life saving, but they are not enough. The reality is, even without clerical errors like the one that occurred with Lisa Spicknall, a large majority of victims never access the justice system, never report the crime, and therefore never find haven from threats, severe injury or death at the hands of batterers with access to firearms.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the United States, on average four women are murdered each day by current or former husbands or boyfriends. Firearms are the most common weapon used in intimate partner homicides. Most women who are killed by their husbands or ex-husbands are killed by guns. Guns also are frequently used to intimidate and terrorize victims of domestic violence. Research shows that the mere presence of a firearm – or access to one – increases fatality rates in abusive relationships. In fact, the risk of femicide in relationships with domestic violence is six times greater when there is a firearm in the home. Firearms require little preparation or effort and, in just a moment, all can be lost.

We need to strengthen our gun laws and support the efforts of cities like Chicago to protect its citizens, to enhance safety for victims of domestic and sexual violence and children, and to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of batterers. That is why the Family Violence Prevention Fund is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Chicago’s ban on handguns. Women’s lives are at stake in this case. We urge the Court to let America’s cities give victims of domestic and sexual violence the protections they urgently need. Thank you.”

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The Family Violence Prevention Fund works to end violence against women and children around the world, because every person has the right to live free of violence. More information is available at

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