Lawmakers and gun-rights advocates have called for arming abuse victims, but few battered women are mentally and emotionally prepared to pull the trigger.
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that would allow anyone 21 or older who is protected by a restraining order to carry a concealed handgun without a license for 45 days. The measure represents the latest effort by legislators and law enforcement officers around the country to encourage victims of domestic abuse to arm themselves. In June, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie directed his attorney general to fast-track concealed handgun permit applications for individuals “living under a direct or material threat.” And in August, a Louisiana sheriff urged domestic abuse victims in his parish to deal with their estranged partners by “shoot[ing] him in your backyard before he gets in your house. Drop him.”
A more effective way to reduce domestic violence deaths, gun violence prevention advocates argue, is to force abusers subject to restraining orders and domestic violence convictions to surrender their guns. When either the abuser or the victim is armed, things can turn deadly: Domestic assaults involving guns are 12 times more likely to result in death than assaults without them.
Ruth Glenn knows firsthand how dangerous it is to introduce firearms into a domestic violence situation. In 1992, months after she left an abusive marriage, Glenn’s estranged husband pulled her over on the side of the road. He shot her three times, twice in the head. After leaving her to die, he spent four months on the run from law enforcement before taking his own life.
Glenn, who now serves as the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, spoke to The Trace about why some victims may not be emotionally or mentally prepared to use decisive force against an abuser.