Karen Tronsgard-Scott: Reducing impulsive acts of devastating violence

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Vermont has an ugly secret. In our picturesque villages, our quaint downtowns and our larger neighborhoods, grim scenes of domestic violence are occurring. It is all too easy to think that this grotesque violence doesn't exist in our beautiful state. But behind too many closed doors, victims are suffering from emotional, economic and physical abuse. After a beloved state worker was murdered last year by her ex-boyfriend, Vermont's Public Safety Commissioner called domestic violence "a disturbing trend in the state." Indeed, the trend is disturbing. And deadly.

According to the state, between 1994 and 2015, 50 percent of all Vermont homicides were domestic violence related. One thing that we know is making the trend of deathly domestic violence incidents even worse is easy access to firearms. As much as 59 percent of those adult-related domestic violence deaths between 1994 and 2015 were committed using guns. Firearms pose a significant danger to victims of domestic violence, and this is true no matter who owns the firearm. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the presence of a firearm in the home of an abuser increases the risk of homicide 500 percent.

This is why the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Vermont's leading voice on domestic and sexual violence, strongly supports the waiting period legislation, S. 22, currently being considered by the Senate. The passage of S. 22, which would implement a 48-hour waiting period on the purchase of firearms, would reduce the likelihood of impulsive acts of devastating violence.

When lobbying against this common-sense gun safety measure, representatives of the gun lobby often claim that a waiting period would put victims of domestic violence at greater risk. Let me be clear. Nothing could be further from the truth. Access to firearms puts victims of domestic violence at greater risk.

Firearms are rarely used for self-defense in violent crimes such as domestic violence. Based on an analysis of FBI data from 2007-2011, victims of violence crime engaged in self-protective behaviors that involved a firearm in less than 1 percent of cases. According to a study conducted by the Violence Policy Center, women are far more likely to be killed than to use a firearm in a justifiable homicide. For every one time a woman used a handgun to kill an intimate partner in self-defense, 83 women were murdered by their intimate partner with a firearm.

Domestic violence related homicides are not only tragic for the victim, they shatter the lives of surviving family members — especially children. They also forever damage the communities in which they occur. The Network urges the legislature to reduce the likelihood of these impulsive acts of devastating violence by passing S. 22.

Karen Tronsgard-Scott is the executive director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to uprooting the causes of violence in Vermont. If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can find an organization near you that can provide support by visiting vtnetwork.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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