Women are more likely to be killed by people they know in states with high rates of gun ownership, according to a Boston University School of Public Health study published in Violence and Gender. The study also reports 88% of female murder victims in the United States are killed by someone they know.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 53.8% of all homicide victims in 2009 knew their killers, and 24.2% were murdered by family members. Worldwide, women are at a significantly higher risk of homicide at the hands of an intimate partner than men are. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 40% of murdered women are killed by intimate partners, and men are six times less likely than women to be murdered by intimate partners.
Could Gun Ownership Increase Gun-Related Violence Against Women?
Because state-specific tallies of gun ownership are not available, researchers could not directly calculate the number of people who own guns in each state. Instead, they used a formula that calculates statewide gun ownership based on state hunting licenses and guns used in suicides. The researchers say this offers a reliable correlation (.95) to self-reported rates of gun ownership.
The team then looked at state homicide rates from the Supplemental Homicide Reports of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, a national data source that provides data on relationships between victims and offenders. They controlled for variables linked to violence, such as age, poverty, alcohol consumption, and crime rate.
Correlation Between Gun Ownership and Female Homicide Rate
The team looked at a correlation, controlling for other potential causes, but did not directly establish a causal relationship between gun ownership and violence against women. Some other factor might mediate the relationship, such as different cultural norms in states with higher gun ownership rates.
Overall, the average gun ownership rate between 1981 and 2013 was 40%, with the lowest average of 12% in Hawaii and the highest average of 73% in Wyoming. The study’s authors suggest that if the gun ownership rate in Wyoming decreased to 40%, the state’s female homicide rate could drop by about 33%.
- BU study finds link between state gun ownership rates and murders of women. (2016, January 26). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/bumc-bsf012616.php
- Expanded homicide data. (2009). Retrieved from https://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/offenses/expanded_information/homicide.html
- Flock, E. (2013, June 21). WHO study: Forty percent of murdered women killed by their partners. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/06/21/who-study-forty-percent-of-murdered-women-killed-by-their-partners
- Siegel, M. B., & Rothman, E. F. (2016). Firearm ownership and the murder of women in the United States: Evidence that the state-level firearm ownership rate is associated with the nonstranger femicide rate. Violence and Gender. doi:10.1089/vio.2015.0047
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