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Confessions of a gun enthusiast: Doing away with safety requirements could hurt women and children

SHARE Confessions of a gun enthusiast: Doing away with safety requirements could hurt women and children
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A Glock 19X handgun and ammunition owned by Aaron Turner, a concealed firearms instructor, sit on the shooting bench as Turner poses for photos at Legacy Shooting Center in West Jordan on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. The Utah Legislature has done away with the concealed carry permit requirement.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist is a great way to exacerbate one that does. 

That’s what is at risk with eliminating the requirement for a concealed carry permit in Utah. There are already speculations over the effect it will have on suicides. But concern over what the elimination of the requirement means for domestic violence is also an apposite worry. 

I share that worry. My spouse and many of our friends would call themselves gun enthusiasts. Every single one I’ve talked to about this permit change also expressed their concern for the potential for increased violence. Polls show most Utahns agree.

As I’ve written in the past, the link between gun violence and domestic violence is undeniable. 

There are nearly one million women in the U.S. today who have survived being shot or shot at by an intimate partner. An average of 53 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner each month. 

Eighty percent of children killed in mass shootings (defined as shootings in which at least four people other than the shooter are killed), were from incidents involving family or intimate partner violence. 

Research finds that the presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship increases the likelihood of homicide by 500%. That danger extends not just to women, but to children, innocent bystanders and the police officers who respond to the situation. 

Utah is not exempt.

Sexual assault is the only violent crime where Utah falls above the national average. In all other violent crimes, the state has rates lower than average. Nationally, 1 in 4 women will experience sexual violence. 

In Utah it’s 1 in 3

Elizabeth Sollis, media consultant for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, told me the coalition has seen a 25-50% rise in crisis calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of domestic violence incidents involving a firearm also rose during the past year. 

The state witnessed a record number of homicides last year. Almost 80% were committed with a gun. 

Along with the permit, the required background checks and firearm safety training were also removed. That’s the real concern. 

“We aren’t anti-gun — we’re anti-gun violence,” Sollis said. “Making sure that people have the knowledge how to keep their firearms safe so they can maintain their firearm ownership is key. The one concern we have is that could go away.” 

It’s not an anti- versus pro-gun issue. It’s a gun safety issue. 

Sure, firearm safety and education classes will still be available. But how many will take them before purchasing a firearm?

These classes aren’t entirely comprehensive or go as deep as some desire, but any education about gun safety and the important suicide prevention module is better than nothing. 

Policies should be put in place that disrupt abusers’ access to firearms — not ease it.

States should focus on prohibiting domestic abusers from purchasing guns, getting existing abusers to relinquish their weapons and implement enforcement on existing laws from court and law enforcement agencies. 

“People will say that bad actors will be bad actors no matter what,” Sollis said. “That might be true, but we still have laws that try to reduce the impact of their bad acts or have greater consequences for the bad acts.” 

There are more deficiencies than surplus in the system to deter gun violence. Solutions do not result from fewer safeguards. 

Other states that have eliminated concealed carry requirements have seen a 13%-15% rise in violent crime, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The literature suggests the correlation is simple: The more guns there are in public, the more violent crime rises. 

Utah’s decision is an unwise and untimely one. 

Not only did many domestic violence victims lose access to places they may have retreated for safety — libraries, places of employment or even just the grocery store — but the ongoing public health crisis has also delayed justice for those who have dared to press charges. 

Cases requesting trial by jury are postponed, subsisting dangerous situations for those awaiting justice. Even though the change doesn’t take effect until May, it’s not a time to make accessing dangerous weapons easier as this backlog continues to grow.

Removing the few safety checks we have in place to avoid such tragedy without improved or adequate replacements is not the answer.

The suffering of women and children is not an acceptable sacrifice for a “tiny change.” Instead, lawmakers should work to close existing loopholes, improve civil and domestic violence records and require thorough background checks.