As citizens across the nation follow public health instructions to shelter in their homes to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus Disease, victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse are facing increased risk to their own personal safety.
For many people, home may not be safe when there is a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse.
Additionally, a recent surge in gun sales has increased already rising concerns among those of us working to protect people from domestic violence and sexual assault due to the already tense situations that may become more dangerous with a (new) firearm in the house.
Stress and financial uncertainty can exacerbate domestic or sexual abuse and adding a firearm to the situation equals an even more deadly equation. We know from research and prosecutorial experience that loss of employment and the escalation of abusive behavior may lead to the murder of an intimate partner.
I strongly encourage families that have a gun in the home to take time to discuss and think about safety issues. Domestic violence safety plans call for weapons to be locked away. The National Rifle Association’s safety rules also suggest guns be stored unloaded and securely out of reach of unauthorized users like children. Children should be educated about what to do if they find a gun, which includes not touching it and telling an adult they found a firearm.
A gun should never be handled after consuming alcohol.
These safety tips may seem obvious, but in a crisis our brain doesn’t always work the way it normally does when we are calm. Making sure a gun is unloaded and locked away can help protect us during stressful moments.
Free help is available from our grantees, including the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms, which has experts who can provide assistance to victims, family, and friends by calling 800-903-0111 x1 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other helpful contacts include: The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233; Stronghearts Native Helpline at 1-844-762-8483; and local domestic violence, mental health and public safety providers. If you feel your life is in danger, call 9-1-1.
I ask everyone to follow the guidance of the COVID-19 medical experts to be healthy and to heed the advice of the weapons experts to take precautions to be safe from gun violence so that we can all survive this pandemic together.