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Domestic Violence and Firearms

Guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination. State and federal law must include protections to ensure that individuals with histories of domestic violence cannot purchase or possess firearms. 

The Issue 

Violence against partners and family members is a public health crisis, and, given the accessibility and availability of guns in America, this violence is often perpetrated with a firearm. Domestic violence homicide data does not accurately capture the magnitude of domestic violence fatalities and use of firearms in domestic violence. These gaps make it challenging to understand the full scope of domestic violence nationally and to advocate for and implement data-driven domestic violence prevention strategies on the national, state, and local level. 

Even when there are no shots fired, abusers often use the mere presence of a firearm to intimidate, control, coerce, threaten, and injure intimate partners. 


United States V Rahimi

The Supreme Court will decide if a federal law prohibiting possession of firearms by people subject to domestic violence protection orders is Constitutional. More context about the case, United States v Rahimi: 

The Solutions 

We have the potential to protect domestic violence victims and survivors through policies, programs, and interventions. Among other things, expanding both federal and state domestic violence firearm prohibitions will reduce abusers’ access to firearms. Additionally, we need to improve collection and reporting of domestic violence related data.  

Research shows that domestic violence offenders often have criminal histories but may not have been convicted of crimes of domestic violence. As such, firearm prohibitions aimed only at people with domestic violence convictions will allow a number of domestic abusers to remain armed. By passing and implementing firearm prohibitions policies focused on anyone with a violent misdemeanor conviction, we can save lives.  Here are some of our recommendations that we are currently examining and advocating for: 

  • Domestic violence misdemeanors: People convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence should be prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms.  

  • Violent misdemeanors: Individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors are at an increased risk of violence and should be prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms.   

  • Domestic violence protective orders: People who are subject to domestic violence protective orders, including temporary orders, should be prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms for the duration of the order. 

  • Firearm removal in cases of domestic violence: Firearms should be temporarily removed from the scene of domestic violence incidents and from people who are subject to domestic violence protective orders of any kind for the duration of the order. Funding should be provided to states and localities to develop and implement firearm removal procedures in domestic violence situations.  

  • Robust Implementation of firearm removal laws: While laws often prohibit individuals from possessing firearms, it is critical that these provisions are enforced.  Coordination between police and sheriff’s departments, victim services agencies, and prosecutors are critical.  States can also set up compliance hearings in civil protection order cases to ensure that firearms have been properly surrendered in accordance with the law.  Having clear protocols for law enforcement and victims to follow when a firearm has not been surrendered also allows for judges and prosecutors to have the information they need to hold an individual in contempt or issue a search warrant.   

In addition to policy, we recommend enhancing data collection and reporting procedures: 

  • Data collection and reporting: Collection and reporting of data related to domestic violence incidents, including fatalities and the role of firearms, is inconsistent between states. Even the definitions used are not standardized. Inconsistent -- or even nonexistent -- data makes it difficult to compare states, track changes over time, and fully understand the problem at either the state or national level. While the FBI and the CDC both have databases that track homicides, states are not required to report these statistics to the federal government, and the data they report is often incomplete. Having good data is fundamental to effective prevention. Congress should establish standardized definitions and require states to collect and report data about domestic violence incidents, including fatalities and the role of firearms, on a regular basis. 

The Evidence

Guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination.

Nearly half of all women murdered in the United States are killed by a current or former intimate partner, and more than half of these intimate partner homicides are by firearm.1,2 

Many mass shooters have histories of domestic violence.

Researchers found that in 68.2% of mass shootings from 2014-2019, the perpetrator either killed family or intimate partners or the shooter had a history of domestic violence.

Intimate partner homicide is preventable,

A 2019 study found that, in the three years leading up to an intimate partner homicide, police were in contact with the female victims related to domestic violence in 91% of the cases.

Firearm removal policies save lives.

Research shows that there is a 23% reduction in rates of intimate partner homicide when individuals convicted of nonspecific violent misdemeanors — not misdemeanors related to domestic violence — are prohibited from accessing firearms.  

Our Work 

Our center works with jurisdictions to assist in robust implementation of firearm removal laws and policies.  The Center’s advocacy team uses our public health expertise to support states in strengthening policies legislatively in consultation with local groups.   


“We fail victims and survivors of domestic violence the moment we choose to protect abusers — and their firearms— over the people being abused. We must do more to protect individuals — the vast majority of whom are women — experiencing domestic violence. We know that firearms are used in over 50% of intimate partner homicides. Ensuring that domestic abusers are prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms and ensuring that firearms are actually removed from abusers is critical to saving lives.”

- Lisa Geller , MPH

Senior Advisor for Implementation




1. Websdale, Neil & Ferraro, Kathleen & Barger, Steven. (2019). The domestic violence fatality review clearinghouse: introduction to a new National Data System with a focus on firearms. Injury Epidemiology. 

2. Zeoli AM. (2018). Multiple victim homicides, mass murders, and homicide suicides as domestic violence events. Battered Women’s Justice Project.

3. Geller, L.B., Booty, M. & Crifasi, C.K. (2021). The role of domestic violence in fatal mass shootings in the United States, 2014–2019. Injury Epidemiology.

4. Koppa V, Messing JT. (2021). Can Justice System Interventions Prevent Intimate Partner Homicide? An Analysis of Rates of Help Seeking Prior to Fatality. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

5. Zeoli AM, McCourt A, Buggs S, Frattaroli S, Lilley D, Webster DW. (2018).  Analysis of the Strength of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Their Associations With Intimate Partner Homicide. American Journal of Epidemiology


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