Two years ago, a gunman barged into a Brookfield, Wisconsin spa where my sister Zina worked, shooting her and six other women with a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Zina and two others died.
The gunman, who killed himself before police arrived, was Zina’s estranged, abusive husband, Radcliffe. Just a day earlier, Zina had been granted a protective order against Radcliffe, after he slashed her tires, threatened to burn her with acid, and told her he would kill her if she called the police. That same day, Radcliffe went onto Armslist.com, bought the gun – no background check required – and picked it up in a McDonald’s parking lot just hours later for $500 cash.
Lax federal gun laws make it incredibly difficult to stop domestic abusers who want guns from getting their hands on them. All too often, it is women like my youngest sister – and innocent bystanders – who pay the price.
As tragic and devastating as Zina’s shooting death has been for our family, it is a far too common occurrence. Every month, an average of 48 women are killed with guns by current or former intimate partners, accounting for more domestic violence deaths than all other weapons combined.
On July 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing titled “Violence Against Women Act Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence,” in order to discuss the deadly intersection of gun crime and domestic abuse. I will be testifying at the hearing, sharing my sister’s tragic story and calling for immediate congressional action to prevent further senseless murders.
Our representatives’ first step should be to support Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013, a bill that would take serious, common-sense steps to save women’s lives.
At the Senate hearing, I will urge senators from both sides of the aisle to take a stand and cosponsor this bill.
I will make this appeal as a proud gun owner, hunter, and member of the National Rifle Association. The Second Amendment was meant to protect the gun rights of law-abiding citizens like me, not deranged and violent criminals like Radcliffe. And 74% of my fellow NRA members agree that we should have background checks on all gun sales.
Currently, federal law prohibits gun ownership by those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, but this prohibition applies only to incidents involving a spouse, parent of the victim’s child, current or former cohabiter, or parent/guardian. Abusive “dating partners” are exempt from any gun restriction. Similarly, men who are subject to restraining orders also may still own guns under federal law, so long as they were merely dating the women they abused.
When we consider that the majority of intimate partner homicides are committed by these as-of-now-exempt dating partners, it becomes clear just how many women are left unprotected by federal law.
Further, federal law does not prohibit an individual convicted of a stalking misdemeanor from buying and owning a gun – even though a study of 10 major cities found that nearly 9 in 10 attempted murders of women involved at least one stalking incident in the prior year.
Senator Klobuchar’s bill would close these loopholes, ensuring that every woman – whether a girlfriend, wife, or daughter – is protected from the dangers of domestic gun violence. It would, in the process, go a long way toward ensuring that those who beat, threaten, and stalk women – the tiny percentage of violent men who are responsible for over half of all female gun deaths in America – do not get their hands on guns. That’s a trade-off I can live with. I would hope that the United States Senate feels the same way.
Women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than they are in other developed countries. This statistic may seem shocking, but when we consider how easy it is for convicted domestic abusers to get their hands on guns, can we really be all that surprised? It is well documented that the mere presence of a gun in a domestic conflict increases the risk of homicide for women by five times.
But even if we are no longer surprised by the constant stream of gun violence against women in our country, we can’t afford to be apathetic about it. Some of our elected officials seem to feel that it’s not worth making a change, that we should just accept the status quo. But when the status quo entails the daily slaughter of innocent women, we have a moral obligation to act – and to do so as soon as possible, before more sisters, mothers, daughters and girlfriends are needlessly buried.
Elvin Daniel is a gun owner and a member of the NRA. His sister, Zina Daniel, was shot and killed by her estranged husband in 2012.