On Sunday, October 1, 2017, Stephan Paddock killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500 before killing himself in Las Vegas, Nevada, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States. The 64-year-old Caucasian man had several guns that he fired from 32 feet above to a concert below. Police found 23 firearms in his hotel room and another 19 firearms in his home, along with several more rounds of ammunition and explosive devices. Las Vegas law enforcement is still trying to uncover Paddock’s motive.
As people continue to mourn, the media will continue to try to find a way to explain the latest mass shooting in the United States. While some will call for more gun control and others, like the National Rifle Association will insist that guns do not kill people, people kill people. There is one issue that will go largely ignored. Paddock, like so many other mass shooters, had a history of domestic violence. According to the Los Angeles Times, workers at Paddock’s local Starbucks said he regularly verbally berated his girlfriend in front of others. Staff recall Paddock telling girlfriend Marilou Danley, who was in the Philippines at the time of the shooting, “I’m paying for your drink, just like I’m paying for you.”
It’s found that men have committed all mass shootings in the history of the United States. Of these men, several of them have a history of violence against women. Omar Mateen, the man who killed several people in an Orlando Gay Nightclub in 2016 regularly physically abused his wife. James T. Hodgkinson, who shot House Majority Whip Steven Scalise in June, had previously been arrested for domestic battery. Robert Lewis Dear, who opened fire at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in 2015, was accused of abuse by two of his ex-wives. Adam Lanza, who killed several firsts graders at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, intended to shoot his mother. Before Las Vegas, the two largest mass shootings in 2017 both involved men with a history of domestic abuse targeting their intimate partners. Over Memorial Day Weekend of 2017, Willie Cory Godbolt killed his estranged wife and seven other members of her family in rural Mississippi after she had left him a few weeks ago. On September 10, 2017, Spencer Hight opened fire on a party in Plano, Texas attended by his ex-wife. He killed eight people before officers killed him.
Paddock murdered strangers and did not target any former intimate partner. However, according to a study done by Every Town Research, 57 percent of the mass shootings that happened between January 2011 and June 2014 were men killing an intimate partner or a family member. That same study found that in 2011, an intimate partner or a family member murdered 53 percent of women murdered by guns in the United States. They also found in their report that when a domestic abuser had a gun, the risk of homicide increased by 500 percent. The Center for Progress Report found similar data; between 2001 and 2012, intimate partners using a gun killed 6,410 women.
The United States has taken some small measures in trying to curb allowing domestic abusers to possess guns. Some states require background checks on guns and prohibit domestic abusers and stalkers from purchasing a gun. Federal law prohibits domestic abusers convicted of a felony from purchasing a gun. However, so many loopholes also exist, such as letting domestic abusers keep guns they already have, and many domestic abusers still have access to guns without ever breaking the law to obtain them.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States and would be the perfect time for American legislatures to prove that they care about violence committed against women, while simultaneously preventing men like Paddock from possessing guns. However, current action or inaction by many members of Congress indicates this will not occur. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has maintained power in the United States for a long time and is the driving force that keeps any gun legislation from being passed. This includes federal laws that would make it harder for domestic abusers to have guns. The NRA regularly argues that guns do not kill people; people kill people. The NRA also argues that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
However, no good guy with a gun could have shot Paddock who was 32 floors below. Additionally, research indicates in the case of domestic violence, women who own guns might be in more danger than women who do not have a gun. According to Robert Spritzer, a professor of political science who studies gun control legislation, “when you look at what actually happens, the gun violence that ensues is far more likely to be used against women than in protection of women. Even in cases where the women have training, where they are acquainted with the use of guns. There are cases, obviously, of women who have successfully protected themselves. But there’s not a lot of real, hard evidence to support the idea that women are materially benefited by getting a gun to protect themselves.”
Paddock’s experience as a domestic abuser will probably be forgotten as more information comes to light after the Las Vegas shooting. However, there are ways we can prevent other domestic abusers from possessing guns in the first place. According to Every Town research, states that make it harder for domestic abusers to get a gun have a lower rate of female homicide committed by an intimate partner. The research shows that when the loopholes are closed and domestic abusers and stalkers are kept from dangerous weapons that threaten the safety of women who have already suffered, these women and other members of their community are safer. The United States must do better in committing to helping domestic abuse survivors. There are simple solutions to this violent epidemic and it is time to stop assuming that domestic abuse is just between two people. As we move forward, both in mourning Las Vegas and honouring Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is our obligation to work harder to ensure that we do something to stop the high homicide rate and make the United States a country that is safe for women.