I’m a Domestic Violence Survivor and a Gun Owner. Here’s Why I Believe in Gun Safety Laws.
Content warning: This post contains a description of domestic violence.
Four days before my 25th wedding anniversary, my husband fired a gun at me.
Fortunately, he missed—but that moment changed my life and the lives of my children forever. The police warned me that he would try again to kill me and likely succeed. They encouraged me to petition for an emergency protection order that would temporarily restrict his access to guns. I followed their advice.
I had been living with the possibility of an event with a gun for a very long time. My husband and I were gun owners and enjoyed shooting ranges. But things changed when I discovered he had purchased an additional handgun without my knowledge.
He started coming home from work and drinking beer on the couch with the gun beside him. I asked him not to, but it didn’t make a difference. One night we had an argument, which wasn’t unusual. The next morning, he shot a gun at me while I was moving my car.
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Most people believe acts of aggression like this happen during an argument, but the police told me it was not unusual for something to happen the following day. The perpetrator has time to “stew” on the argument and may be even more upset the next day.
This act of violence tore the family apart. He insisted it was an accident, and in the aftermath, some family members distanced themselves from me.
I was living a very middle-class life that got upended in an instant. My husband’s guns were taken away from him for two years while the emergency protection order was in place, but they didn’t go far—the guns were given to a relative, where he still had access to them.
One misconception I often come across is that domestic violence only happens in low-income areas. Domestic violence can and does affect women of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. In fact, nearly one million women alive today have been shot or shot at by a partner.
It’s all too common for women who experience domestic violence to blame themselves. I thought if I could just endure my situation until the children were all out of the house, everything would be okay. My now ex-husband showed me over and over through verbal abuse, lying, and getting involved with other women that our marriage wasn’t a healthy one, but I refused to admit it to myself. I think it was out of self-preservation that I blamed myself rather than accept I needed to end the relationship.
I still live with the repercussions of him shooting a gun at me. This happened back in 2005, but to this day, I duck every time I hear a loud noise, even if the noise was caused by something falling and doesn’t sound like a gunshot at all. I’m overly sensitive to what is happening around me all the time. I felt safer after moving out of the state where he lived, but I’m always on guard.
Today I am very open about my experience in the hopes that my story might help other women in similar situations. Whenever gun ownership comes up in conversation, I am quick to admit that I am a gun owner. I believe it sets the tone that I have a common interest with others who own guns and are not anti-gun ownership.
I believe that gun ownership and gun violence prevention laws can and should go hand-in-hand. I’m thankful for the protections that victims and survivors of domestic violence have, like the Violence Against Women Act. And I’m grateful that law enforcement took my concerns and my situations seriously. Not all women who are experiencing domestic violence get that support.
But the truth is that there’s more we can and should do to protect domestic violence victims and survivors. I believe in waiting periods after applying to purchase a gun, stricter background checks, elimination of ghost guns, requiring background checks for gun show purchases, and stronger penalties for illegal gun possession.
When I’m in another domestic relationship, I will have completely different parameters concerning guns in the house, like requiring that any guns are stored safely. My ex-husband’s actions put my life and my children’s lives at risk, and that’s something I’ll never forget.
You are not alone: If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
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