The gunmen behind some of the deadliest mass killings in U.S. history typically have one common denominator: a history of domestic violence.
There is an obvious link between mass shootings and domestic violence. A study last year by Everytown for Gun Safety, which used FBI data and media reports to analyze mass shootings from January 2009 to December 2016, showed that 54 percent of the perpetrators of these horrific mass killings had a history of domestic or family violence.
Simply put: Guns don’t belong in the hands of domestic abusers — it’s a deadly combination.
Currently there is legislation pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee that would prevent domestic violence perpetrators from having access to firearms. Drafted in collaboration by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence — the country’s oldest statewide domestic violence coalition — and sponsor Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, Senate Bill 501 would prohibit domestic abusers subject to final Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders from possessing firearms; would require those abusers to surrender their firearms to an authorized third party, and to do so within 24 hours rather than the 60 days currently allowed under state law.
The legislation has been endorsed by Gov. Tom Wolf who, in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, urged state lawmakers to move forward on Senate Bill 501 and a number of other pending measures that provide further protection for domestic violence victims and strengthen the state’s PFA Act.
The legislation does not aim to limit the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners, rather the purpose is to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers who have exhibited a propensity for escalating violence.
Last year, as reported in the coalition’s 2016 Fatality Report, of the 102 people who lost their lives to domestic violence in Pennsylvania, 56 percent were killed with a firearm. Those victims included women, men and children ranging from ages 2 to 87. Two of the them were law enforcement officers responding to the most dangerous type of call — a domestic violence call. In the past 10 years, 1,600 Pennsylvanians have lost their lives to domestic violence, and more than half were shot to death.
We cannot continue to ignore the statistics when the safety and wellbeing of Pennsylvanians is at risk.
Devin Patrick Kelley, the 26-year-old who opened fire Nov. 5 inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 25 people and an unborn child, had previously been charged with assault and battery against his wife and aggravated assault against his stepson. Prosecutors said Kelley fractured the skull of his toddler.
About a month earlier, Stephen Paddock rained gunfire at a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500. Paddock was reportedly notorious for verbally abusing his girlfriend in public.
Omar Mateen, 29, who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016, physically abused his former wife on a regular basis.
Seungh Hui Cho, 23, who murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech in April 2007, was accused of harassing two women at the university two years earlier. Virginia police ordered him to stop contacting the second student.
Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother four times before killing 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
And James T. Hodgkinson, who shot at lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice this summer and wounded five people, had been accused of strangling and beating his foster daughter.
These horrific incidents all happened outside of Pennsylvania; however, there are women, men and children in the Commonwealth who have lost their lives from the actions of domestic abusers with all too easy access to firearms.
Left unchecked, the next Sutherland Springs massacre could happen here, in your hometown.
There’s never been a better time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 501 to protect the safety of our communities and to ensure that domestic abusers don’t have access to firearms.
As a community, we need to take action now to prevent the next senseless death or the next mass tragedy. Lives depend on it.