Another day; another mass shooting with a suspect who has a long history of violence against women.
The man who is suspected of shooting at GOP members of Congress during practice for their annual baseball game on Wednesday morning, wounding at least five people, had been accused of domestic violence. James T. Hodgkinson, who died from injuries sustained during the incident, was arrested for assaulting a woman in 2006 during a domestic dispute.
Experts have long claimed that violence against women is the best predictor of future mass acts of violence — and Hodgkinson is just the latest in a long line of male shooters who, despite their violent pasts, were still able to access weapons.
Before Esteban Santiago opened fire on an airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, killing five and wounding 45, he was charged with domestic violence — his girlfriend claimed that he bashed her head in and tried to strangle her.
The ex-wife of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen told the media that he violently abused her during their short marriage.
And Robert Lewis Dear, the alleged Planned Parenthood shooter, was charged with sexually assaulting one woman at knifepoint in 1992, accused of domestic violence by his then-wife in 1997, and had an order of protection for yet another woman who claimed that he stalked her.
Recent research done by Everytown for Gun Safety has reported that of the mass shootings in the United States between 2009 and 2015, 57 percent included victims who were a family member, spouse, or former spouse of the shooter. And 16 percent of attackers had been previously charged with domestic violence, according to The Cut. And most of the victims are women and children.
“Men who commit violence rehearse and perfect it against their families first,” wrote Pamela Shifman and Salamishah Tillet in The New York Times. “Women and children are target practice, and the home is the training ground for these men’s later actions.”
The issue is complicated by the fact that it’s often incredibly difficult to determine if someone has a history of domestic violence. Some restraining orders, for example, are civil and some are criminal, depending on the type and the issuing court.
The criminal ones sometimes will show up on background checks, but they will not show the majority of civil orders that are related to stalking or domestic violence cases. Even law enforcement in most states can only see active restraining orders. And, of course, this doesn’t show the public the people who have had the police called to their home dozens of times — but no charges ever pressed, perhaps out of fear of retribution.
Often, those closest to mentally ill family members and friends know that they have a ticking time bomb on their hands — but are still powerless to stop them from getting guns.
Some states are trying tougher measures to get guns out of the hands of abusers. California passed a groundbreaking gun violence restraining order law in 2014, which allows emergency legal steps to be taken by victims or family members. In these cases, the concerned parties can ask the court to prohibit the person from buying a gun.
This could have potentially helped the families of mass shooters including Jared Loughner, who who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed 10 people in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011. His family took away his shotgun, but were frustrated that there was not more help available unless he committed a crime.
Main photo: John Hodgkinson [USA Today / YouTube (screenshot)]