Here’s a look at domestic shootings and gun laws, focusing on three states, but touching on several others from 2006 to 2014.
Massachusetts Has Tough Gun Laws, Fewer Domestic Killings
BOSTON—Massachusetts has some of the toughest gun laws in the country and relatively few fatal domestic violence shootings of states with similar populations. Here’s a look at the number of killings and the laws meant to help curb the violence in the state:
Women at Risk
Women are far more likely to be the victims of fatal domestic violence shootings, according to FBI statistics.
Of such 31 killings in Massachusetts from 2006 to 2014, only two were men—both husbands.
Of the remaining 29, 14 were girlfriends, 11 were wives, three were former wives and one was a common-law wife.
2007 was the deadliest year during the time period, with 11 gun-related domestic violence killings reported in Massachusetts, twice as many as any other year.
Massachusetts vs. Other States
Massachusetts, with some of the country’s toughest gun laws, has far fewer gun-related domestic violence killings compared to states of a similar size.
Arizona, for example, had nearly the same population as Massachusetts in 2014—about 6.7 million—and reported 201 gun-related domestic violence killings from 2006 to 2014.
That’s more than six times as many as the 31 killings in Massachusetts.
Tennessee, another state with nearly the same population as Massachusetts—about 6.5 million—recorded 258 gun-related domestic violence killings during the same time period. That’s eight times as many as in Massachusetts.
Gun Rules for Domestic Abusers
Massachusetts has relatively strict laws when it comes to keeping guns away from those accused of abuse.
Judges are required to order the surrender of all “firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns and ammunition” when issuing a domestic abuse restraining order.
Accused people are also required to surrender their license to carry firearms or firearms identification cards. The order can be appealed.
Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, 2 1/2 years in jail, or both.
Tough Gun Laws
Following the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Massachusetts lawmakers began work to overhaul the state’s gun laws.
The 2014 law stiffened penalties for some gun-based crimes, allowed for real-time background checks in private gun sales and created a firearms trafficking unit within the state police.
It also gave police chiefs the right to go to court to try to deny firearms identification cards needed to buy rifles or shotguns to people they felt were unsuitable to have access to the weapon.
Chiefs can also deny licenses to carry but are required to give written reasons why.
Indiana Had 143 Fatal Domestic Shootings From 2006-2014
INDIANAPOLIS—FBI records show that Indiana reported more than 140 domestic violence-related fatal shootings from 2006 through 2014, although the number is likely higher because some of the state’s law enforcement agencies didn’t report such data.
The Associated Press analyzed FBI records for that period and found Indiana had 143 fatal shootings of spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners.
Nearly 80 percent of those victims were women.
Indiana is considered a gun-friendly state. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives the state a D- and ranks its gun laws 23rd in the nation in terms of toughness.
Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence executive director Laura Berry says lawmakers could take several steps to restrict Hoosiers with a history of domestic violence from possessing guns.
The Numbers: During the nine years examined, the fewest reported domestic violence-related fatal shootings happened in 2014, with 13. The most were in 2007, with 21, and the average was about 16 per year. However, the FBI says the number of Indiana police agencies that provide it with such crime data varies from year to year.
Nationally, 6,235 people were killed in such attacks during the nine years examined, with current wives and girlfriends accounting for 75 percent of the victims.
The Victims: Nearly 80 percent—111—of the Indiana victims were women. Sixty were girlfriends of the assailants, 41 were wives, nine were ex-wives and one was a common-law wife. Of the male victims, 15 were boyfriends, 13 were husbands, three were ex-husbands and one was a common-law husband.
Where They Died: More than a quarter of the victims—38—were killed in Indianapolis, Indiana’s most populous city. Seven were killed in Fort Wayne, the state’s second-largest city, and seven others were killed in Gary. Another Lake County city, Hammond, had six domestic violence-related fatal shootings. The remaining 85 killings were spread throughout the state, with no other municipality reporting more than three such killings during the 9-year period.
State Laws: Indiana’s most recently passed law aimed at curbing fatal domestic violence shootings was enacted in 2014. It states that when an individual’s domestic violence conviction is expunged, it does not immediately restore that person’s right to possess a firearm.
Federal law bars felons convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse crimes and individuals subject to permanent protective orders from buying or owning guns. But Indiana law allows people with a domestic violence conviction to petition a court to have his or her right to possess a firearm restored five years after his or her conviction.
Domestic Violence Advocates: Laura Berry, the executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says state lawmakers could take several steps that could reduce Indiana’s fatal domestic violence shootings. For one, she says they could impose a permanent ban on people with domestic violence convictions from possessing firearms. Berry says “five years doesn’t change anything” if someone harbors rage and resentment against a current or former partner.
Berry also says that while Indiana law authorizes police to remove firearms they might see while responding to domestic violence or family violence calls, such confiscations rarely happen. And state law doesn’t require such weapons to be confiscated.
Guns Used in 195 Domestic Killings in New York From 2006-2014
ALBANY, N.Y.—Guns were used in 195 domestic-related killings in New York from 2006 through 2014, according to an Associated Press review of FBI records. Nationally, 6,235 people were killed in such attacks, with current wives and girlfriends accounting for 75 percent of the victims.
The Numbers: New York’s 195 killings compared with 637 in California, with a population twice as large, and with 798 in Texas, the second most populous state. The annual number in New York ranged from a low of 17 in 2014 to a high of 31 in 2007 and typically is about 20 per year.
The Victims: Of the killings in New York, 88 of the victims were girlfriends and 74 were wives. Combined, that was 83 percent of the total. The others included nine boyfriends, seven common-law wives, one ex-husband, eight ex-wives and eight husbands. In all, 177 of the victims were women. The killings happened across the state, with 79 counted in New York City.
The Laws: More than a dozen states in the past two years have moved to toughen laws limiting a domestic abuser’s legal ability to own a firearm. New York’s gun ownership rules in general are among the strictest in the nation, and the state has followed the federal government’s lead in restricting ownership by people with even just misdemeanor convictions for domestic crimes. Any buyer at a licensed dealer or gun show is vetted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The last time the state added a new domestic violence provision was in 2013. As part of the SAFE Act, gun owners are required to safely store guns so domestic abusers living with them can’t get access to the weapons.