Domestic Violence does not end at home

A woman and her children take part in a vigil for victims of a mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, US., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Khursheed

The Shelter for Abused Women & Children grieves with the families in Sutherland Springs who lost loved ones to unthinkable violence and with a community that will spend many years healing. Today, The Shelter’s census is 23 adults, 28 children and one pet. Thanks to you, these survivors will be empowered with the basic necessities, services and counseling needed to restore hope and peace in their lives. But the truth is, no one is safe from domestic violence because it is a crime against all of us. Domestic violence does not end at home.

The shooting in Sutherland Springs, the shooting in Orlando, the Beltway sniper attacks, the shooting at the Congressional baseball practice, the Las Vegas shooting, and so many other mass shootings have one striking similarity – the perpetrator had a history of domestic violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Over half of all mass shootings are directly related to family violence, according to the NCADV, targeting one or more family members or an intimate partner.

The fact that the Air Force failed to follow policies for alerting federal law enforcement about Sutherland Springs mass murder Devin Kelley’s violent past is even more troubling. This failure enabled the former service member to obtain firearms before the shooting rampage. Kelley should have been barred from purchasing firearms and body armor because of his domestic violence conviction in 2014 while serving at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. He was sentenced to a year in prison and kicked out of the military with a dishonorable discharge following two counts of domestic abuse against his wife and a child. Had his domestic violence offense been entered into the National Criminal Information Center database, 26 lives might have been saved.

Following a high-profile mass shooting, we come together briefly as a nation to offer our thoughts and prayers, then immediately fracture into antagonistic parties. There are sensible solutions that do not infringe on the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners while keeping firearms out of the hands of people who have proven themselves to be violent. We must act on those common sense solutions – today.

Prohibiting all abusers from possessing guns and requiring background checks for all gun sales and transfers is simply common sense. Research shows these policies work, and the vast majority of Americans and gun owners support these policies. Lives are on the line. By failing to act, we fail to honor the memories of so many American women, men and children killed by abusers with guns.