‘Gun violence, white supremacy and homicidal masculinity are inexorably linked’

Published: 11/8/2019 8:40:22 AM
Modified: 11/8/2019 8:40:11 AM

On Sept. 30, this paper ran a letter from a Greenfield resident who insisted that gun violence in the United States has no correlation with race or gender (John Blasiak, “Race, Gender and Politics”). As the staff of Franklin County’s rape crisis and domestic violence resource center, NELCWIT, we felt the need to correct this specious assertion; gun violence, white supremacy and homicidal masculinity are inexorably linked in contemporary America.

The first mass shooting in the U.S. was in Austin, Texas in 1966. It is well-known that Charles Whitman, a former Marine, climbed the Tower at UT and shot 17 people before being killed by a police officer. What few accounts include is that in the two days prior to his rampage, he murdered his mother and his wife.

A history of violence against women has preceded most of the horrific mass shootings of the past 10 years. The Sandy Hook shooter shot his mother four times before murdering 20 people in an elementary school in 2012. The Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter (who killed 49 people and wounded 53; the FBI classified it as terrorism) had a documented history of physically abusing his wife. The shooter in Sutherland Springs, Texas, who opened fire in the First Baptist Church in 2017, killing 26 people, had been court-martialed by the Air Force for assaulting his wife and 2-year old son. In Las Vegas, the shooter had a history of verbally abusing his girlfriend in public; in 2017, he opened fire to kill 58 people and wound 433, making it the deadliest attack on American soil since 9/11. In 2014, following the upload of a Youtube video detailing his jealousy and resentment of women, the UC Santa Barbara shooter killed six people and injured 14 others before turning the gun on himself.

Domestic violence is about an entitlement to control. What is more controlling than choosing to take the life of another person? When Mr. Blasiak insists that white men are only threats to other white men, that dying in a mass shooting is less likely than dying from the flu, he fails to connect the fact that while anyone can take precautions to prevent the flu, there is no way to avoid being killed by a stranger who has decided to play God. You can die at a nightclub, a music festival, your university, with no warning.

Of course, domestic violence is the warning. Survivors of domestic violence know that their lives are at risk. Even when law enforcement is involved in a domestic violence situation, guns are not always removed from the home. Massachusetts does not require a bill of sale for firearms; an abuser can lie to the police and say they sold a gun they still possess. If a survivor does not know of all the guns their abuser possesses and doesn’t specifically list them on a restraining order, they will not be removed. Restraining orders don’t cover firearm removal from a specific dwelling, only a specific person, so guns belonging to other people in the home may remain. Domestic violence calls are the most dangerous for police officers; in 2018, according to the FBI, 51 of the 55 officers killed on duty by citizens were killed with a gun; 46 of those officers were white men, who also had guns, and yet they were unable to protect themselves.

Because the Center for Disease Control has been forbidden by Congress from conducting research on gun violence for the past 15 years, we have little information about how often guns are used to maintain control in abusive dynamics. The last federal study on risk factors for homicide found that the mere presence of a gun in the home increased the risk of homicide for all residents by 500%, including intimate partner violence, accidental child death and suicide. Why are we insistent that it be easy to end a life with a bullet? Why are we resistant to understanding the true impact of a culture which prizes the right to kill over the right to live?

It’s easy to fall into the habit of talking about violence solely from the perspective of protection and provisioning: how can the police help? How can courts change? How can we better serve survivors? Until we begin to comprehensively address and fund education to prevent not only domestic violence, but the rampant racism and misogyny that is killing so many, “protection” will remain inadequate. If we put all our faith in the law and its enforcement, how can we possibly address the complicity of the police state, in this violence?

The staff of NELCWIT, SEIU Local 509: Carla Oleska, Interim Executive Director; Juan Carlos Aguilar, Co-Executive Director; Louisa Khettab, Director of Counseling; Carolyn Sweet, Grants and Contracts; Sarah Fitzgibbons, Collaborations Coordinator; Erin Kelly, Hotline Coordinator; D Lightman, Advocate; Hannah Young, Advocate; Ginevra Bucklin-Lane, Advocate; Zoraida Agudelo, Advocate; Kathy Eaton, Advocate; Christina Badillo, Advocate; Teresa Cordoba, Advocate; Ben Yarrow, Advocate; Alexis Hott, Advocate; Janet Reipold, Safeplan; Elizabeth Finn , Safeplan; Noreen Sale, Safeplan.

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