Last week, James T. Hodgkinson arrived at the GOP’s baseball practice for the upcoming Congressional baseball game and opened fire with a military-style rifle. He injured five people, including House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise. A look at the 66-year-old’s background confirms that he has something in common with a large number of other men who have committed mass shootings: a history of domestic violence.
A report by Everytown Research found that in at least 54% of mass shootings, the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member. But even when someone didn’t shoot a former intimate partner, they often had domestic violence in their history. Hodgkinson, for example, was arrested in 2006 for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm for a variety of violent incidents aimed at his daughter, his girlfriend, and another couple.
The shooter in Orlando who killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub last year, Omar Mateen, had a history of domestic violence. Dylann Roof, a white man who walked into an AME church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed nine Black congregants, grew up in a home marred by violence. The Fort Lauderdale airport shooter? History of domestic violence. Isla Vista, California shooter? Virgina Tech shooter? San Bernardino shooter? All had histories of domestic violence. Even the recent London Bridge attacker, a terrorist who didn’t use a gun, was a “violent” husband, per reports.
But back to the most recent horror. Despite Hodgkinson’s history, he was legally carrying his weapon. The 2006 charges against him were dismissed (something that happens frequently in domestic violence cases), which meant there were no restrictions on his ability to own firearms. However, as Fusion points out, even if someone is convicted on a domestic violence charge, that doesn’t necessarily prohibit them from owning a gun. Under federal law, someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence is only barred from owning guns if they are married to, have children with, or live with their victims. That means that someone who is convicted of assaulting a non-cohabiting partner is still allowed to carry guns. Currently, only 10 states have laws that close this loophole. Not only that, but current federal law doesn’t require domestic abusers to surrender their guns if they are convicted of a disqualifying offense.
The injured Rep. Scalise considers himself a staunch believer in the Second Amendment, and has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. In 2015, he introduced the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, legislation that would to relax restrictions on cross-state gun sales. Scalise described it as eliminating “archaic red tape burdening gun owners who legally purchase firearms across the nation.”
The shooting has seemed to only strengthen the resolve of Republican lawmakers to loosen gun restrictions, with their reasoning being that people need to be able to defend themselves if they are being shot at. This generally goes against most thinking on gun control measures in most other places; it also is at-odds with much research, which shows that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence incident increases the likelihood of a homicide by a staggering 500%.
Here’s one thing we do know: we need to disarm domestic abusers and we need to do it yesterday. There’s currently a bipartisan bill awaiting a hearing or a vote in the House that would close that “girlfriend loophole.” It’s been sitting for two years. In 2015, Fusion asked the NRA about the Senate version of the bill and spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said, “This gun control bill exploits emotionally compelling issues such as domestic violence and stalking in an attempt to keep as many people as possible from exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
How many more people have to die before we realize that no one is trying to round up everyone’s guns? We just want to take guns away from those folks who shouldn’t have them in the first place. And we want people to wake up to the connection between misogyny and public violence.