Minnesota Law Review

Note, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang: How Current Approaches to Guns and Domestic Violence Fail to Save Women’s Lives

In comparison to the general population, battered women are much more likely to experience gun violence at the hands of their intimate partners. However, despite an increasing recognition that the government must take special measures to stop gun violence against battered women, current laws remain ineffective at disarming batterers. Many state governments impose no disarmament requirements on batterers. In states that have adopted measures to disarm batterers, the laws suffer from disparate application and insufficient bureaucratic and physical infrastructures.

In response to the inadequate state laws, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act of 1996, which bans persons convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or subject to an order for protection from possessing guns. This Act relies entirely on state authorities to disarm batterers. However, the states’ reticence and inability to disarm batterers causes the federal gun laws to be underused and unable to protect women.

To better deter the gun violence that costs battered women’s lives, this Note recommends a new method of ensuring that states enforce the federal gun bans. This Note suggests that Congress should use its spending power to entice state governments to adopt and enforce federal gun bans as a minimum requirement for disarming batterers. In addition, this Note argues that the federal government should provide funds through the Violence Against Women Act for the formation of locally operated gun units. Congress would equip these units with the law enforcement capacity necessary to disarm batterers. The gun units would also operate gun repositories where officials could safely store guns. Lastly, this Note advocates that state reporting requirements would enable Congress to distribute federal funds to areas most affected by domestic violence. By providing incentives for the states to adopt and enforce federal gun laws, the federal government may better ensure women’s safety.

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