To stop mass murder, stop domestic violence

If we’re really interested in stopping mass murder, it’s well past time to start talking seriously about whether we take domestic abuse seriously enough.

Find a man who’ll beat up women and children, and you may well find a man capable of killing the defenseless.

Devin Kelley. Stephen Paddock. Omar Mateen. Tamerlan Tsarnaev. James Fields Jr. All had a history of domestic assault. Of 156 mass shootings from 2009 to 2016, more than half the killers had a history of domestic violence.

This should be enough to keep guns out of the hands of people who beat, before they become people who kill, columnist Renee Graham writes this morning in the Boston Globe.

Both domestic abusers and mass killers are driven by a ferocious need to exert power and control through violence. The worst of these men — and mass killers are overwhelming men — seek domination through force, intimidation and, ultimately, murder. And they are buoyed by “a society that upholds a culture where misogyny is socially accepted, and ranges from domestic homicide to sexual harassment,” said [Debra Robbin, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., a social justice advocacy coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence].

“If we look at these issues as a continuum rather than as isolated, segregated forms of abuse,” she said, “we can see that we aren’t having a national conversation about gender-based violence and how to really get underneath and prevent it.”

Like the easy access to powerful firearms, domestic violence is a crisis of national proportions. From the Vegas Strip to rural Texas, and every point beyond and between, the unchecked anger that fuels domestic violence also feeds a culture of mass shootings as terrifying as they now are common, and seemingly unstoppable.

These men are not hard to find. The stories aren’t difficult to locate.

This week, Rheanna Lind, 23, of Detroit Lakes, told hers.

“Every day after school, he would take my phone and see who I was texting and, if I texted anyone that he didn’t like, he would break my phone,” Rheanna says of the man she started dating when she was in high school, according to the Detroit Lakes Tribune. “In the first year of our relationship, I went through six phones because of him. It just got progressively worse.”

“At first, he would throw me to the ground or push me. He would make everything feel like it was my fault–like he did this because of something that I did–and it turned into me apologizing for every single thing,” she explains. “It just kept getting worse, but he was pretty good about making it so the bruises were in places that I could hide. I would wear long sleeves and long pants–even in the summer–so that no one else could see the bruises. But, eventually, he stopped trying to hide it and occasionally I would get a black eye or a swollen lip somewhere where I couldn’t hide it.”

She left him. But when she told him, he pushed her down two flights of stairs and threw her across a car’s hood.

In Winona, women are trying to get the problem on the radar of people. The Women’s Resource Center has started its annual clothesline project in which T-shirts dedicated to the the dead are hung on a clothesline. There are a lot of T-shirts this year, the Winona Daily News writes.

Michelle Le, 48, of Richfield, was strangled by her husband.

Jaida Hoffman, 34, of Winona, was shot and killed by her boyfriend, who proceeded to shoot and kill himself.

And Vanessa Danielson, 36, of Minneapolis, was burned to death by her ex-boyfriend, who reportedly broke into her home while she was sleeping, doused her bed in gasoline and set it on fire.

“It’s not for lack of community awareness, and it’s not for lack of effort,” Diana Miller, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center, said. “(Domestic violence) is supported in ways big and small within our cultural norms. Until we address it as a society and it rises to the level of a priority, it’s not going to go away. We all have to realize that it’s a problem.”

There are 11 criteria that would prevent someone from purchasing a gun. One of them is being the subject of a protective order for domestic violence or conviction of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

Yet in the records of military members in an FBI database, there is only one case of domestic assault, the New York Times says.

The federal law preventing the ownership of guns by domestic abusers applies only to married couples, couples with children, or couples who live together.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has filed legislation to close the “Boyfriend Loophole.”

  • Rob

    Bob C, I think this sentence from the post should read: Yet in the records of military members in an FBI database, there is only one case of domestic assault, the New York Times says.

  • jon

    OMG is it possible we’ve identified a way to pick out who the bad guys are?

    I mean we’ve ruled out the mentally ill when we overturned the laws restricting their access to guns (though we continue to blame them, even from the people who worked very hard to ensure they could have access to firearms).
    And we ruled out terrorists when we all agreed that not being allowed on a plane was one thing, but not being allowed to get a gun was something completely different (and decided that rather than fixing issues with the no fly lists, we’d use them as reasons to expand gun rights so we could have a pro-gun voting records on the NRAs website.).

    But now we’ve got domestic abusers, are they the bad guys who we keep giving guns to? if any one stands up to defend them against the liberals taking all their guns away then we can just ask “Are you still beating your wife?” and that’ll be the end of it right?

    Or are we going to keep on this whole idea that everyone should have guns, and responsible gun owners should encourage everyone to have guns, and we shouldn’t shame irresponsible gun owners, because that’s their personal decision to be irresponsible, even when they go online and make everyone who owns a gun look like an idiot by talking about how they sleep with a loaded unlocked weapon on their night stand in case they need to protect their 2 year old from a home invader…

    I hope something comes of this… I hope in not to many years I can look back on the late teens as a time when we changed the trend on the gun violence curve… but I don’t think it will be…

    Sick of a world where the right can point to alcohol purchases as a reason why we need ID for voting, but can’t get the right to agree that if we need a database to track claritin purchases maybe a database to track firearm purchases wouldn’t be a bad idea.
    Even some rationality would be a step forward at this point… and I fear I’ll be waiting a long time (current predictions, the optimist in me says mid 2020’s, but the pessimist says the 2050’s…)

  • Brian Simon

    I forget whether it was Monday or Tuesday’s coverage, but shortly after summarizing the TX shooting we heard updates on two separate local murder-suicides from the last week.

    Just another day in the news, I guess.

  • Charlie Hurd

    There should be a punitive and therapeutic approach to domestic abuse. Every abuser should be assigned a mental health professional from day one.

  • Al

    The correlation is UNDENIABLE.

  • As long as we are going down the path of predictive behaviors, I’d throw in intentional cruelty to animals as a close cousin of domestic abuse. Both are deeply troubling pathologies as far as I’m concerned.

  • AL287

    “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.” —Winston Churchill

    I suppose we have to have several more mass shootings before we finally realize there are some people in our country who should not have guns. Period.

    Domestic violence is about power and control. Not only do we have to take the guns away from wife beaters and wife abusers (as in verbal abuse), we have to educate our daughters and sons on what is and isn’t appropriate behavior in an intimate relationship.

    I never had a daughter but I was married to an abusive man who was physically and verbally abusive. It started not long after our son was born.

    The only reason he never hit me again was because my father, a devoted parent to four daughters told him if he ever did that to his little girl again he would take his head off with a double barreled shotgun. My ex is lucky my dad didn’t kill him on the spot.

    His violent temper and verbal threats surfaced again when the stock market crashed in 2000 and our son reached his teens a couple of years later and rebelled at times like teenagers do.

    I took all of the guns and brought them to the local police for safekeeping and finally gave him his pink slip after he threatened for the umpteenth time to send me back to my relatives.

    Did I prevent a mass shooting? Possibly. Do I think he was capable of shooting up his place of employment or some other mass gathering?

    I don’t think so but you never know. I hope I never have to read about him in the news headlines.

    • Dan

      Teaching adolescents how to have healthy romantic (and other) relationships, and teaching about what’s unhealthy, is sorely lacking in our society. Very few get that at home, and there’s even less taught outside the home… we just don’t do it well. Kids should be learning this stuff when they learn about fallopian tubes.

      • Lindsey

        The opposite seems to actively taught to many girls, such as, that boy who pulls your hair just likes you.

        Statements like that, which are said every day, serve to internalize that violence is okay, as long as they like you.

        • Al

          I wish I could upvote this a million times.

        • Brian Simon

          In the category of small positives, it seems like this simple realization is getting more publicity. Unfortunately it will probably take a long time for such a simple change in expectations to become rooted in and throughout society.

  • Dan

    Find a man who’ll beat up women and children, and you may well find a man capable of killing the defenseless.

    For mass shootings, the overall number of offenders is so small (< 200) there's not much predictive correlation. More like "find a man who'd kill the defenseless, he's probably the same kind of a-hole who beats his wife and kids". Even then, "more than half" isn't exactly the strongest correlative evidence. The sadly all-too-common single murder, murder-suicide cases are good enough a reason to keep guns from abusers. Mass shootings are of course topical.

    • We should have a better sample of mass murderers in due course.

      • Dan

        But not a better understanding of statistics.

    • BJ

      >For mass shootings, the overall number of offenders is so small (< 200) there's not much predictive correlation.

      We have had over 375 mass shootings so far this year. So lets first agree that your data point is wrong.

      At around 400 people in the United States we have a predictive sample size (depending the what you are studying). has a pretty good set of data. About 1 in 5 mass shootings we have a 'person' in the first 24-48 hours, the others are unknown (at least for a while). So it takes about 1.5 years of shootings to get a 400 sample size of mass shooters.

      I think the data by those that crunch it is available and can be used with a degree of certainty.

      • Dan

        We have had over 375 mass shootings so far this year. So lets first agree that your data point is wrong.

        Let’s first agree that I responded to numbers provided in the blog post under discussion, “of 156 mass shootings from 2009 to 2016, more than half the killers had a history of domestic violence”.

        • jon

          If we have 400 in 1.5 years, and the study referenced above is 7 years and only looks at 156 mass shooting (which mass shooting definition is being used might matter some here, but isn’t mentioned) as stated in the article above. Then that’s 156 out of 1840… leaves something like a ~8% margin of error on the numbers…
          I’ll leave a sample size calculator here:
          ( )

          While it’s not a 100%, it’s a huge chunk of the problem… and the statistics even if they are at the edge of the margin of error would mean that we have something in the 40%-60% range (depending on where exactly the “over half” number falls) of mass shooters having a history of domestic violence. (95% confidence)

          Still a significant percentage of them either way.

          Moreover I wouldn’t say this is a predictive model at all, a predictive model would look at what percentage of domestic abusers go on to become mass shooters, not the percentage of mass shooters that WERE domestic abusers. Suggesting it is a predictive model is CLEARLY a misunderstanding of statistics and modeling.

          • Dan

            Right we agree? I feel like that’s basically what I posted originally. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • jon

            Except that isn’t what you said.

            You suggested we didn’t have enough data points on mass shooters to get a predictive model..

            There is no amount of mass shooter data points that would give us a predictive model.
            To get a predictive model we’d need to look at a sampling of domestic abusers and see how many of them become mass shooters.

            So you proposed measuring more of the wrong thing in hopes of getting the right answer, and then accused others of not understanding statistics…

            This is the first step in confirming a predictive model is to look at what the outcome all has in common… Then see how often that item happens outside of that out come.

            All mass shooters have access to firearms… but only a small percentage of people with access to firearms become mass shooters. You can’t know the later with only data points on the former, no matter how many of them you have.

          • Dan

            Ah, ok, I thought you were probably still internet-arguing with me based on your tone.

            So you proposed measuring more of the wrong thing in hopes of getting the right answer, and then accused others of not understanding statistics…

            I of course proposed no such thing.

            What you seem to be taking issue with, the small < 200 number meaning you can't get there. Meaning, considering the prevalence of domestic abusers in the population, there's no way — no matter what other data points you have — to get to "domestic abuser is meaningfully more likely to become a mass murderer than non-domestic abuser". Which I thought more or less IS what I said.

          • I suggest we make domestic violence a national priority and see what happens. My guess is we find out there’d be a reduction in domestic violence.

  • Guest

    No-fly list and domestic abuse orders are real reasons for worry. Perhaps even sending cops to the house to demand all guns be turned over to police. BUT due process still belongs. Allow a hearing to make the case. Nobody knows how folks get on or off the no-fly list.

    A mere same name has stopped folks from flying. Should that also be enough to send cops to collect guns? A one-sided accusation is enough for a domestic abuse order. Should that also be enough to send cops to collect guns? Perhaps on Monday but lets have a hearing on Friday to see if the guns can be returned.

    NOW tell me how to stop somebody willing to kill others is going to be stopped from buying a gun off the street.

    Even if gun control is passed as wanted, it won’t make much of a difference to a willing killer.

    • Lindsey

      We have evidence from the other industrialized nations that reduction of access to firearms does, in fact, reduce use of firearms.

    • Chris Hatch

      “A one-sided accusation is enough for a domestic abuse order”.

      Actually no it’s not, getting an order of protection is incredibly difficult as anyone who has needed one will tell you.

    • asiljoy

      I’m not getting the connection. Domestic abuse orders aren’t assigned arbitrarily. No one is saying, “You have the same name as Joe Blow, so Domestic Abuse Order for you!”

      As for the one sided accusation business, you have to have evidence and have presented it in court. You aren’t getting these at the DMV. This isn’t an arbitrary process.

    • Gary F

      Due process, due process, due process………….

    • BJ

      >NOW tell me how to stop somebody willing to kill others is going to be stopped from buying a gun off the street.

      First you tell me how you buy a gun off the street. It’s not like a unlicensed gun dealer is walking around shouting; “guns for sale, get your illegal gun here.”

    • Jim E

      >NOW tell me how to stop somebody willing to kill others is going to be stopped
      >from buying a gun off the street.

      Background checks for all firearm transfers would be a start. I suspect you’re over-estimating the ease of buying a weapon similar to an AR15 on the street.

      Waiting periods for legal gun purchases are also effective. They seem to reduce the rate of both impulsive homicides and suicides.

      • One of the things that interesting to me in this new American “can’t do” spirit is how the focus is entirely on the end of what is a long process and not at the beginning.

      • Gary F

        Problem is, the street gang person, or the mentally ill person, won’t buy their guns from someone willing to do a background check. They just wont.

        • Lindsey

          Yeah, but that is about 11% of all homicides. So, we shouldn’t do anything to stop the other 90% since we can’t stop them all?

        • A “street gang person” isn’t shooting up churches, or Las Vegas country music fests, or movie theaters, or elementary schools …

          • Gary F

            You are right, but most of the gun violence today is happening in the inner city. Gun crime across the nation in down, except in select large US cities.

          • I’d like to see some numbers that confirm “most of the gun violence today is happening in the inner city.” Chicago, maybe. But, that is certainly not a national trend. And such a statement doesn’t involve the ease with which mass shooters are able, legally or illegally (through lack of bureaucratic effort, failure to update databases, etc.), to obtain high-power firearms. Nor does it account for the number of suicides committed with a firearm. (Which makes me wonder: Will the Texas mass shooter’s death be statistically accounted for as a suicide?)

            On this page, we’re actually talking about mental illness and domestic abuse, and these ease with which these individuals are able to obtain firearms. If you feel more threatened by a gang banger shooting on Chicago’s South Side than you are feeling threatened being the innocent target of a mass shooter – in a church, at a concert, in an airport, etc. – so be it. If you believe that a bad drug deal-turned violent is of greater national concern than is domestic abuse, in all its forms, so be it.

            My agenda would be different.

            “Gun Violence: Facts and Statistics”:


          • The link between mental illness and mass murder is somewhat mythical, at least compared to the link between domestic violence and murder, mass or otherwise.

            yesterday’s Kerri Miller show has all the deets on the former.

          • “The link between mental illness and mass murder is somewhat mythical …”

            Do you mean causation does not lead to correlation? Perhaps there is no academic study to scrutinize. But, IMHO, anger-management – the inability for an individual to solve a personal issue without resorting to violence – is what is at the root of domestic abuse, terrorism, mass shootings, etc. Anger-management issues are a mental illness.

          • Not necessarily and I’m referring to clinical evidence. Anger or anger issues by itself is not a defined mental illness. They COULD be, of course. Check Kerri’s show yesterday.

          • Will do. Thanks, Bob!

        • Chris

          It may take 25 years thanks to the stolen supreme court seat, but “well-regulated” is coming back.

          • Gary F

            The comma will always stay.

          • Jim E

            Will they?

            “Another problem with trying to find meaning in the Second Amendment’s commas is that nobody is certain how many commas it is supposed to have. The version that ended up in the National Archives has three, but that may be a fluke. Legal historians note that some states ratified a two-comma version. At least one recent law journal article refers to a four-comma version.”


          • Guest

            LOOK at how things happened back then. NOBODY said “hey all you individuals, unless you are in the militia, turn in your guns”

          • Well, the only way that would have happened is if a law had been passed requiring them to.

          • Chris

            Only an activist judge would use that as an excuse to ignore words that have a clear original meaning.

          • Jim in RF

            I see ‘Militia’ as the key. Still can’t see how the Court came to view an individual as a militia. My friend/hero Russ Feingold wrote his dissertation making the case for the individual right. I have trouble forgiving him.

        • Jerry

          The guns were bought legally at some point

          • Gary F

            yup, and with millions in circulation, there will always be an ample supply.

          • Jerry

            Which is why we need more gun control. You don’t put out a fire by continuing to add fuel.

  • Gary F

    And the system is only as good as the data it receives. A good first step is to fix the NICS system. Every state has different standards and procedures to report people to the national data base. And in the case of the Texas shooting, the military didn’t report this guy, and I’m not sure that their standard is.

    FIX NICS. The best first step.

  • Jerry

    And yet we are the only country that can’t go a month without a mass shooting.

  • Dawn

    “Of 156 mass shootings from 2009 to 2016, more than half the killers had a history of domestic violence.” Therefore, domestic violators are mass killers. Not quite. The cruelest, to minor children and their parents, and the most brutal form of “domestic violence” is child custody/access litigation, coupled with, at its most extreme, protection order litigation. This most extreme form of adversarial violence each year in the US causes millions of unnecessary bankruptcies, hospitalizations, incarcerations, and tens of thousands of suicides, homicides and dozens of community massacres. In each of these incidents, the carnage can usually be tied to one or more family lawyers and/or family court judges who chose to use adversarial , too-often deadly violence against these vulnerable families, rather than the lawfully-prescribed, optimal method of family dispute resolution–i.e., structured family mediation. The carnage before us is simply a product of the complete lack of appropriate methods for selecting or training US family court judges in the US. For the sake of national peace and security, each future family court judge and judicial clerk should be selected from among the most highly skilled family mediators in the court’s jurisdiction. They will know what to order in each of these cases (nothing but inter-parent communication and mediation), and how to treat maximally-distressed parents: equally, with the tenderness, dignity and respect they and their children deserve. This will bring to an end much of the conflict, poverty, anger, deep suffering, violence, fatalities and massacres in the US, which as we have seen are being directly caused by our family courts.

    • Strawman argument.

      Therefore, half the killers had a history of domestic violence, actually.

      • Dawn

        Correct, what we are seeing is that over half of the mass killers
        were subjects of the most cruel, brutal form of domestic violence known to human-kind–i.e., child custody/access coupled with protection order litigation–shortly before the massacres. Due to the use of “abuse,” “harassment,” “stalking” and other vague minor misdemeanor laws in connection with ex parte “protection” orders–which are granted automatically in most US counties “in favor of” the first parent to file–in separation/divorce cases involving minor children, every parent in this situation can easily be successfully “protection ordered,” fathers and mothers inclusive, and barred from their families, whether or not they committed (or are even alleged to have committed) an act of domestic violence. The intense, long-term intra-family conflict these orders cause is hugely lucrative for the family lawyers, but devastating to the vulnerable minor children and distressed parents who are violently impacted by the aftermath.