Marie Kirkendolph: Prevent stalkers, abusers from buying guns

2014-08-11T18:45:00Z Marie Kirkendolph: Prevent stalkers, abusers from buying gunsBy Marie Kirkendolph Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Look through the pages of today’s Arizona Daily Star. As I write this, I have no idea what stories appear, but I know there will be sad, tragic and painful headlines. And tomorrow’s newspaper will replace them with new headlines — equally sad, tragic and painful.

For women who have faced the trauma of domestic violence — and I am one of them — those headlines are all too personal. Stories involving guns and domestic violence regularly haunt me, since it was that scary combination that killed my sister. We’ve learned over years of research that the presence of a gun in a situation like this makes it five times more likely that a woman will be shot and killed.

For victims of domestic violence, there is scant comfort in thinking that the next headline will be different because, sadly, they continue to appear with a level of troubling regularity. We know that every month, 48 women on average are shot to death by current or former domestic partners — spouses, boyfriends, “significant others.” We know that women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns in America than in other developed countries. We know that more women in domestic violence situations are killed by guns than by all other weapons combined.

We know this, and yet, amazingly, glaring loopholes in federal laws continue to allow domestic abusers and stalkers to legally obtain firearms.

Although federal law generally prohibits gun possession by domestic abusers, this prohibition usually does not apply when the victim is a dating partner. In what is an encouraging step in the right direction, though, a new bill making its way through a Senate committee in Washington, D.C., sets out to change that.

I was honored to be in Washington recently, along with other survivors and advocates, in memory of my loved ones and in support of that bill. It was an absolute privilege to attend the first-ever Senate hearing on the connection between guns and domestic violence. I encourage Washington politicians, including Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake, to support Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013 (S. 1290). This bill would close the loopholes in federal law that allow abusive dating partners and convicted stalkers to legally buy firearms. Simply put, S. 1290 would protect victims of stalking and domestic violence, keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, and save lives!

Being in Washington with other survivors and hearing testimony about the toll that domestic violence takes was a moving and meaningful experience. I left the nation’s capital with a renewed sense of what is possible. My newfound optimism was buoyed by the fact that while I was away from Arizona, our state’s leaders were taking important action to reduce gun violence here at home.

Previously this spring, Arizona’s leaders took bold and bipartisan action, overwhelmingly passing a measure that requires the state to submit records of individuals with severe mental illness into the national gun background check system. This will help keep guns out of dangerous hands.

It is my hope that we’ll be able to carry this momentum forward at the federal level and that our own Sens. John McCain and Flake will join in supporting Klobuchar’s commonsense bill. We’ve seen that our state leaders can come together to pass important gun-safety legislation. Let’s encourage those who represent us in Washington to do the same.

Marie Kirkendolph is a member of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. Her mother was killed by her abusive stepfather when Marie was just 12. Almost 15 years later, her sister, Freda McLean, was shot and killed by her husband.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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