Handgun ownership, history of domestic abuse increases risk of committing other violent crimes

DAVIS, Calif. — New research finds handgun owners with a prior charge of intimate partner violence (IPV) on their record are more likely to commit further violent crimes such as murder, rape, and robbery.

These new findings are based data from the University of California, Davis’ Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP).

“Compared to handgun purchasers who had no criminal history at the time of purchase, those with an IPV criminal history had significantly increased risk of subsequent arrest for any violent and IPV crimes,” says first study author Liz Tomsich, a researcher at VPRP, in a university release. “A history of both IPV and non-IPV, compared to no criminal history, demonstrated the strongest association with post-purchase arrest.”

According to the CDC, roughly 33 percent of U.S. women and 28 percent of men have experienced physical violence at the hands of a current or former partner. Moreover, one in four women and close to one in seven men are the victims of severe physical intimate partner violence. When the offender has access to a gun, the likelihood of the IPV turning fatal increase five-fold.

Guns continue to reach the hands of people with criminal histories

The team studied a total of 76,311 adults in California who purchased a handgun in 2001, tracking them up until 2013. All these individuals also had at least one arrest, charge, or conviction for assault, battery, intimate partner rape, or violating a domestic violence restraining order before buying their gun in 2001.

Researchers note that a decent portion of these people shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun in the first place, considering their prior arrests.

“There are implications on improving the background check process,” Tomsich adds. “We found 27 of the 53 purchasers with prepurchase convictions entered the cohort despite active or lifetime prohibitions related to their offenses.”

The study also indicates that intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetrators are more likely to commit more IPV crimes than other violent crime offenders (such as a robbery). In total, 12 percent of those with a history of IPV went on to commit another violent crime. Study authors add, however, that such risk factors tend to multiply when applied on a national scale.

“This could still be a significant problem. Once scaled to the population of the United States, violent crime perpetrated by those with a history of IPV may impact a substantial number of people,” Tomsich concludes.

The study is published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

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John Anderer

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