The Link between Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence
November 13, 2017
Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan / Democracy Now! & David M. Perry /The Nation
The mass murder in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was a horrific crime. It was also horrifically predictable, and emblematic of the systemic problem we have with guns and violence in the United States. Devin Patrick Kelley was the white, 26-year-old former active-duty member of the US Air Force who is believed to have killed 26 people and injured 20 on Sunday before killing himself. The massacre serves as yet another lethal example of the link between domestic violence and mass shootings.
Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence
Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan / Democracy Now!
"There's absolutely no doubt that
the practice of violence within a home . . .
opens the floodgates to public violence."
(November 10, 2017) -- The mass murder in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was a horrific crime. It was also horrifically predictable, and emblematic of the systemic problem we have with guns and violence in the United States. Devin Patrick Kelley was the white, 26-year-old former active-duty member of the US Air Force who is believed to have killed 26 people and injured 20 on Sunday before killing himself. The massacre serves as yet another lethal example of the link between domestic violence and mass shootings.
While he was in the Air Force, Kelley was convicted of assaulting his wife and fracturing the skull of his 18-month-old stepson. The Air Force court-martialed him and confined him for a year, but failed to report his conviction to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
He had numerous other red flags, from the violent abuse of animals to issuing death threats against his superiors in the Air Force. He reportedly had been sending threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, who attended the church where he committed mass murder.
"The majority of mass shootings are connected to domestic violence or family violence in some way," Sarah Tofte, research director at Everytown for Gun Safety, told us on the "Democracy Now!" news hour. Tofte's team has just published a new report. They found that from 2009 to 2016, in more than half of mass shootings, the shooters killed intimate partners or other family members. Domestic violence is more than just a red flag; it is a crime in itself.
Their report reads:
* "The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed."
* "Women in the US are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries, making this country the most dangerous in the developed world when it comes to gun violence against women. Every year American women suffer from 5.3 million incidents of intimate partner violence."
* "Fifty American women are shot to death by intimate partners monthly, and many more are injured. Nearly 1 million women alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner."
"We see this pattern over and over again," Soraya Chemaly, director of the Women's Media Center Speech Project, said on "Democracy Now!." "There's absolutely no doubt that the practice of violence within a home, in an intimate setting, with people that theoretically the aggressor loves, opens the floodgates to public violence."
Soraya Chemaly continued:
"This bigger question is how we treat private violence, how we treat sexual violence, how we think about gendered violence. The public-private divide that we're working with does us a real disservice . . . if you think of the fact that there are three women a day in the US killed by an intimate partner, if that happened in one incident and we were talking about between 20 and 25 women a week being killed in one incident, people might sit up and pay attention."
Mariame Kaba is an organizer and educator who works on anti-domestic-violence programs. She added:
"We get too caught up in trying to label forms of violence as terrorism. The thing that we need to do is to end violence against women, gender-nonconforming people and children at the root of these forms of gun violence and mass shootings. Let's focus on trying to end those other forms of violence, which are themselves forms of mass violence."
Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Sutherland Springs to meet with family members of the massacre victims. Pence is a longtime National Rifle Association member with an "A" rating. While in Congress, he voted for gun lobby legislation to block individuals from suing gun manufacturers and loosened rules on interstate gun purchases.
Pence blamed this week's shooting on "bureaucratic failures" and mental illness. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump made it easier for people with mental illness to acquire guns by reversing an Obama-era rule.
Trump was in Japan at the time of the Texas massacre, attempting to sell billions of dollars' worth of weapons to regional allies as he continued with his bellicose rhetoric against North Korea. He should learn from the countries he visits; in Japan, a nation of 127 million people, there are less than 10 gun deaths in a typical year, primarily due to strict gun control. Compare that with over 33,000 annual gun deaths in the United States.
In the midst of the arms deals, when asked about gun control in light of the mass shooting, he said it was too early to talk about changes in gun policy. How many massacres will it take?
Denis Moynihan is the co- founder of Democracy Now, which is a daily progressive, nonprofit, independently syndicated news hour. Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times best-seller.
It's the Guns. It's Always Been the Guns
Trump and the GOP blame mental illness
for the Texas massacre.
That's a destructive lie.
David M. Perry /The Nation
(NOVEMBER 6, 2017) -- Within a day of the massacre of men, women, and children in a Texas church, President Donald Trump made three claims. First, he maintained it wasn't a guns problem. Second, he said the shooter was stopped by someone else with a gun. Third, he blamed mental illness. Together the statements made one thing very clear: There is no amount of violence or sympathetic victims that will ever shame today's Republican Party to take action on guns.
The details are horrific. The details are always horrific. The shooter, a white male with a history of domestic violence, went in to First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, armed with an AR-15 style rifle. He opened fire. Victims included the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor, a 72-year-old, numerous young children, and a pregnant woman.
One family hid in a bathroom, shots penetrating the walls. An 8-year-old ducked beneath a pewas his brother and two sisters were shot. After the killer had murdered 26 people, injured 20 more, and spread trauma throughout his community, he left the church. There he encountered at least one armed civilian, dropped his rifle, fled in his car, crashed, and seems to have shot himself in the head.
A "good guy with a gun" did not stop the incident. The broken bodies lying in the church and the trauma of the survivors demonstrate clearly that the incident was not halted. Trump, unsurprisingly, claimed that "fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction."
Trump's comments on mental health are typical of Republican response to violence. He characterized the killer as a "very deranged individual" who has a "mental health problem at the highest level." This was also his and Representative Paul Ryan's (R-WI) response after the Las Vegas shooting. Republicans (and some Democrats) have been making comments like this for decades.
On Monday in Japan, though, Trump added, "We have a lot of mental health problems in our country -- as do other countries -- but this isn't a guns situation."
That middle clause, "as do other countries," is quite the tell. Trump regularly runs his mouth freely, revealing the subtext that lies beneath the usual GOP talking points. Trump isn't wrong.
Many countries have not adequately met the mental-health needs of its population. But linking acts of violence to people with mental health is gross stigmatization that belies the data. People with mental illness are vastly more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.
Still, let's take Trump at his word here and agree that around the world other countries also have people with unmet mental-health needs. And yet among 171 nations of the world, the United States is the clear leader in mass shootings. It's the guns. Of course it's the guns.
Stigma is dangerous. When we spread the lie that mental illness leads to perpetrating mass murder, we push people to closet their conditions. Mental health, like all forms of health, requires maintenance and support. Secrecy just leads to vulnerability and self-harm.
Even worse, the GOP, led by now-disgraced Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), has frequently used high-profile incidents of violence to call for forced medication and easing the requirements for involuntary commitment. In other words, the GOP is more than willing to strip away liberties from people with disabilities in order to avoid talking about guns.
Just as we were processing the carnage in Texas, the news broke that Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo was crediting Stephen Paddock's mass murder in Las Vegas on the killer's becoming depressed after losing money.
When white men kill, law enforcement, media, and elected officials seek out explanatory mental-health-based narratives to avoid talking about guns. Notice that the recent violence in New York generated no such talk, as the president and his lackeys quickly launched into anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant diatribes. This kind of prejudicial discourse is typical when people of color commit violence.
The emphasis on mental health is merely a craven deflection from the need to talk about guns. Our mental-health system needs a lot of help, though not to stop gun violence (only 3 to 5 percent of violent acts involve people with psychiatric disabilities, who otherwise make up about 18 percent of the population). The GOP spent the summer trying to defund community and medical-health supports in their attacks on health care.
Trump's little slip, "as do other countries," makes his agenda transparent. The problem is guns; Republicans know it; and they're not going to do anything about it. The GOP has decided that the murder of children in church is a reasonable price to pay for the continued support of billionaire gun merchants and the NRA.
To stop, or even slightly slow the violence, we are going to have to elect different politicians.
David M. Perry is a journalist and historian. His blog is How Did We Get Into This Mess.
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