We may never know if the tragic death of Reeva Steenkamp at the hands of Oscar Pistorius was domestic violence or the result of trigger-happy paranoia. I’m not sure what kind of hard evidence the prosecution has, but a reasonable human must wonder, “Who doesn’t check to see if the woman they love is still sleeping next to them before they shoot at the bathroom?” After all, people do have to get up to pee at night. Or, “Who doesn’t wake their love, who is sleeping next to them, to call for the police while they get their gun out?”
From a justice and a grieving family’s standpoint the answer about intent matters greatly, but to many of us who care for women who are maimed by violence it is almost a moot point. When Reeva Steenkamp started going to Oscar Pistorius’s house her risk of death increased simply because he owned a gun.
Guns make it easier to kill. To kill in an adrenaline fueled panic (as Pistorius claims). To kill in the heat of the argument. To kill in a domestic violence situation (as the state claims). To be killed by an attacker who subdues you and takes the gun away. Study after study tells us that a gun in the home increases the risk of lethality for everyone, but especially so for women. Guns do not, as the NRA claim, make women safer they do the exact opposite.
A gun is such a marker for lethality that doctors ask about it and when a woman screens positive for intimate partner violence and there is a gun in the home our lights and sirens go off and we do our very best to try to help that woman leave, to help her to see her risk in the grave light that we do. A gun is a huge marker for lethality when you add in the volatility of domestic violence.
I am shocked to read that Pistorius is dating a 19-year-old. Wow. I hope she wakes him up every time she needs to go to bathroom at night. She obviously knows about his gun history, but not every woman knows when she starts dating if the guy has a gun or perhaps she knows but isn’t aware of the risk involved. That a gun in the home increases her risk of death. Given that many new relationships start online and we create profiles so people can know more about us and filter us in/out based on desirable/undesirable qualities why not add gun ownership right under smoking?
Obviously people will lie. About their ages. About their hair color. About their salary. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could know in advance if the person you were looking at had a gun in the home? A lot of people are proud of their guns and hey, maybe it might draw those like-minded people together. But maybe many people, especially the more they learn about the risk, will just pass on by and say, “Not for me.”
If you are a woman and the person you are dating has a gun statistically you are more likely to die. I just think that might be important information before starting a relationship.