Why gun violence is also a women’s issue

Kelly Bowman, Contributing Writer

Of course this happened. We all saw this coming. All of the signs pointed towards this outcome, so why are we surprised?

The horrific scene that unfolded on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. is a product of ignorance, blame, and denial. Stepping back from the situation, perhaps what is most alarming is the obvious missed clues. What the school officials, police officers, FBI, and the President of the United States were all missing boils down to two simple facts: Nikolas Cruz had a violent history and he was able to purchase a gun.

No, when I say “violent history,” I am not talking about his anxious breakdowns, depressive mood swings, or his severe ADHD. I am talking about the fact that he has a history of abusing his ex-girlfriend.

Cruz’s ex-girlfriend confided in multiple individuals, sharing that the two broke up because she felt Cruz was dangerous and abusive. Many peers who knew Cruz said that, over time, they had distanced themselves from him because he had a tendency to stalk, verbally abuse, and threaten their female friends. Despite all of these indications, the school administration and FBI still missed these warning signs.

But the red flags were obvious, and knowledge about past perpetrators of these kinds of acts corroborate this evidence. Specifically, Devin Patrick Kelley, the maniac who inhumanely gunned down a Baptist church in Texas last year and had a serious history of domestic abuse. His ex-wife claims that, during the one year they were married, Kelley “slapped me, choked me, kicked me, waterboarded me and held a gun to my head.”

The Pulse nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, who shot and killed 49 people in 2016 also had a history of domestic abuse. His wife told The Guardian that after a few months of their marriage “he started abusing me physically, very often, and not allowing me to speak to my family, and keeping me hostage from them.” Likewise, similar data is connected to the shooter who is responsible for killing 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2013. Before heading to the school, Adam Lanza shot his own mother four times.

Finally, there is evidence to support that Stephen Paddock, the 2017 Las Vegas shooter, had a history of publicly berating his girlfriend. For decades, it has been uncovered that the world’s most horrible killers were also perpetrators of domestic and sexual abuse towards women. Yet, even after astounding evidence like this, these kinds of people, like Cruz, are still able to get their hands on weapons of mass murder.

In the eyes of many, there are two solutions to this problem. The first is to eliminate domestic abuse. Sounds like a great idea, but it is, unfortunately, a nearly impossible task. The second solution is to control the distribution of guns to anyone with any history of violence or mental illness. In the case of many of the mass-murderers mentioned above, and especially in the case of Cruz, they possessed both qualities. While mental illness arguable plays a large role, it does not inform the entire story.

Data collected by Everytown for Gun Safety shows that roughly 57 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2014 involved a perpetrator who also was involved in killing an intimate partner or family member. Additionally, in 35 states, it is not required for a person who has been charged with domestic abuse to hand over their firearm. Even more striking, Zachary Hamilton, the director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice notes that his team found that a conviction for felony domestic violence was the number one predictor of future violent crimes.

Time and time again, we are reminded that a history of domestic violence is a sign that cannot be ignored. If we can identify individuals who have tendencies to display such abusive behaviors towards women, like Cruz, and prevent them from acquiring lethal weapons, we may be able to prevent future horrific events like the one that struck Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

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