The following abstract related to women and domestic violence and is from the article ‘Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home’ written by David Hemenway, published in the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF LIFESTYLE MEDICINE on 2 February 2011.



Whereas most men are murdered away from home, most children, older adults, and women are murdered at home. A gun in the home is a particularly strong risk factor for female homicide victimization. Women in the United States are at far greater risk of homicide victimization than women in other developed countries, and the greatest danger for women in homicides that occur in the home comes from their intimate partners— especially partners with guns.

A subgroup analysis of female homicide victimization from a large case-control study of homicide in the home in 3 metropolitan counties found that having a gun in the home was a large and significant risk factor for homicide. Most of the women were murdered by a spouse, a lover, or a close relative, and the increased risk for homicide from having a gun in the home was attributable to these homicides.

Another case-control study of women murdered by intimate partners, compared with a control group of battered women, found that a gun in the home was an important risk factor for femicide. There was easy access to a firearm (eg, a gun in the house) for 65% of case perpetrators versus 24% of perpetrators of nonfatal abuse. Access to a firearm by the battered woman had no protective effect. Overall, domestic disputes are likely to be affected by the presence of a firearm. Although many spousal homicides occur following a long history of violence in the home, spousal abusers are often impulsive and volatile.

The availability of a firearm increases the likelihood that an attack will prove fatal. A review of intimate partner homicides in Chicago over a 29-year period concluded that “an effective prevention strategy for intimate homicide of women . . . would be to reduce the availability of firearms in the home.”


Guns can be used not only to wound and kill but also to intimidate and coerce. Data on intimidation with firearms are relatively scarce. The National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS) provide information about crime but miss much intimate partner violence and thus much of the intimidation with guns in the home. Fortunately, some information about such intimidation has been picked up by other surveys.

A study of battered women in emergency shelters in California (a state in which more than 600,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence) found that if there were a gun in the home, nearly two thirds of the male partners involved had used the gun to scare, threaten, or harm the women. In contrast, women rarely used the gun in self-defense; fewer than 7% of these women had used a gun in self-defense and only against batterers who had used a gun against them.

Batterers use guns in a variety of ways to control their victims. Not only do they threaten to kill the women, but they also sometimes threaten to kill themselves or the children. Other methods of gun intimidation include, during an argument, cleaning, holding, or loading a gun; going outside and shooting the gun; or threatening to shoot a pet. A national random survey found more hostile gun displays against women in the home—primarily by intimate partners—than self-defense gun uses in the home by women or anyone else.

The complete article with references is online at: