We need stronger laws so people like me don't die in a shotgun blast.
On June 9, 28-year-old Jessica Osborne moved herself and her daughters into their newly-purchased Columbus, Georgia, home. It was supposed to be a fresh start for Jessica and the three daughters that she described as her little queens — ages 10, seven and two.
A week later, her boxes still packed, Jessica was shot in the head and killed. The shooter was Jessica's 23-year-old boyfriend. He was also a convicted felon, a known domestic abuser, and a former member of WTVM's Most Wanted segment when, in 2012, it was revealed that he had 16 warrants for various different crimes.
For me, Jessica story strikes a distinctly personal chord. In 2009, I came home at night to find my estranged and abusive husband lying in wait with a shotgun in his hands. He fired at me as I ran out the door, but I was fortunate enough to escape to our neighbors' house unharmed. The 12-inch hole he left in my doorframe demonstrates how close I was to being one of the 48 women killed with guns every month by current or former husbands or boyfriends.
As with the many of those 48 deaths, perhaps the most tragic element of Jessica's murder is that it could have been prevented. As a recent Everytown for Gun Safety report on guns and domestic violence demonstrates, Georgia is one of the worst states in the country at preventing domestic abusers from getting their hands on firearms.
But it's not just Georgia's state representatives who should be concerned about this steady stream of gun violence against women. Lawmakers in Washington have an obligation to strengthen federal public safety laws and keep our women safe, a duty that they have neglected for too long.
After all, in many ways, current federal law fails spectacularly at protecting women from domestic violence. Today, abusive dating partners convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors and subject to restraining orders are permitted by federal and, in many cases, state law to purchase and own guns.
And, although a study of 10 major cities found that 85% of attempted murders of women by an intimate partner involved one or more stalking incidents in the prior year, men convicted of stalking misdemeanors share this unchecked freedom to buy and use guns.
Last July, Senator Amy Klobuchar sponsored the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013, a bill that would take simple steps to close these loopholes and save women's lives. If passed, it would prevent all convicted stalkers, abusive dating partners, and subjects of restraining orders from owning guns.
Considering that American women are 11 times more likely to be killed with guns in the U.S. than in other developed countries, that more than half of these deaths come at the hands of abusive partners, and that the mere presence of a gun in a domestic conflict raises the homicide risk for women by 500%, Congress cannot take action on Sen. Klobuchar's bill soon enough.
On July 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled "Violence Against Women Act Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence," in order to discuss this deadly intersection of gun crime and domestic abuse.
I will be in Washington for the hearing this week, urging Congress to pay attention to the troubling repercussions of lax federal protections that will be outlined. The right of women to feel safe from the deranged stalkers and abusers who perpetrate these senseless acts of gun violence should not be a partisan issue.
Some members of Congress may not consider the enactment of these basic protections a pressing concern. Each day the Senate stalls, however, is one day too late for another innocent woman like Jessica Osborne. Or, if not for a matter of inches, like me.
It's time for our lawmakers to act.
Kimberly Brusk is an advisory board member on the DeKalb County (Georgia) Domestic Violence Task Force.
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