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Most Mass Shootings Target Women and Families; Study Finds Men With Legal Guns Are to Blame

Data suggests that a gun present in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.

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“It is low—but we know why,” Soto Lamb said.

The most striking feature of the MAIG report were the descriptions of domestic violence—in all but two cases by men—who were targeting women: new wives, ex-wives, girlfriends, mothers, and then others in close family circles. It that found 32 of the 56 mass shootings (56 percent) "took place wholly in private residences." Less than one-quarter "took place entirely in public spaces."

“The shooter killed his wife and their five children before killing himself,” said the report’s oldest account, from Delaware in January 2009.

“The shooter killed his parents and three siblings in their home,” the report’s newest account, from New Mexico this January, said. “He then loaded a van with guns and ammunition with the intent to kill his girlfriend’s family and die in a shootout at Walmart.”

“The shooter killed his mother in her home and then traveled to a nearby elementary school where he shot 28 people, killing 26 of them,” it said in the second newest account, referring to December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  

Soto Lamb said Congress’ unfolding gun control debate has to be enlarged to include domestic violence and the daily deaths of 33 Americans, not just the most horrific mass shootings. She also said it was a “conundrum” that most of the domestic violence incidents are inside homes, because the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller ruling expanded the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment to include the right to keep a handgun at home for self-defense.

“More than half of the women murdered with guns in the U.S. were killed by intimate partners or family members. It’s 64 percent,” she said. “We have data and information that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.” 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).