Gun-Related Domestic Violence Calls Spiked 60% in Texas During Pandemic
Texas law enforcement agencies reported a 60% increase in gun-related domestic violence incidents in the first year of the pandemic, according to an analysis of crime data published by the Texas Council on Family Violence.
The report says, “An estimated 232,319 family violence victims contacted the police between March 2019 and February 2020. That number rose (10%) to 255,347 between March 2020, when the pandemic started, and February 2021, according to law enforcement incident reports in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Uniform Crime Report.”
“Strikingly, the presence of firearms in these incidents increased by almost 60%.”
The report cited several factors that may be connected to the trend, including high unemployment, increased substance use, record gun sales, a lack of enforcement of judicial protective orders, and the isolation caused by pandemic stay-at-home orders.
Crime data from the Texas Department of Public Safety also show that 2020 was a record-high year for intimate partner homicides, with 228 reported victims, 83% of whom were women. The number of female victims increased 22% from 2019 and the number of male victims increase 29%.
Of the 228 intimate partner homicides in Texas in 2020, the majority, 67%, were perpetrated using a firearm. Thirty-two men and 120 women were fatally shot by an intimate partner, a 28% increase from 2019.
Gloria Aguilera Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence, said that “Texas has failed to do enough to prevent dangerous domestic violence offenders from unlawfully possessing firearms.”
“In the past ten years, the number of women killed by a partner or former partner with a firearm has nearly doubled. It is a deeply troubling trend, one that requires quick and firm action. Less than ten of our state’s 254 counties have a program in place to enforce the transfer of firearms from convicted abusers in accordance with the law.”
Terry was referring to court orders that prohibit abusers from possessing firearms, but which aren’t enforced. She added, “The bottom line is: Texas can prevent tragic family violence homicides by ensuring offenders convicted of a domestic violence crime, and recipients of protective orders, do not have access to their firearms.”
In a separate study of Harris County residents impacted by domestic violence, over 50% of respondents reported that the abuse increased during the pandemic. Victims reported an average of 16 physical domestic violence incidents in the past year. Nearly 12% said they had been threatened with a firearm by an intimate partner since COVID-19 began.
That study was conducted by the Center for Violence Prevention at The University of Texas Medical Branch.
Women in abusive relationships are particularly at risk when they try to seek help or try to end a relationship. The Texas Council on Family Violence says in its report, “Women in abusive relationships are 3.6 times more likely to be killed in the period immediately after separation than any other time in the relationship.”
The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers tips for what to do if you witness domestic violence of a family member. If in Austin, The SAFE Alliance also has advocacy and crisis intervention support open from Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 512–267–7233 or text 737–888–7233 for information.