Guest Blog – Targeting Terror: Disarming Domestic Violence Offenders is Key to Preventing Mass Shootings

A photo of Tracy Grinstead-Everly. She has short, dark hair with brown eyes and is wearing a dark denim jacket.
Ms. Tracy Grinstead-Everly, JD

By Tracy Grinstead-Everly

After another round of murders, it is time to transform our agony into action.  Recognizing mass shootings as domestic terrorism is a start because that offers the opportunity to apply proven solutions. 

I have spent over three decades combatting domestic terrorism in its most common form: intimate partner violence. I do not apply that moniker lightly.  While the statutory definition of domestic terrorism has changed over time, the Patriot Act’s designation includes criminal acts intended to intimidate or coerce, that pose danger to human life. Domestic violence is the use of abusive and coercive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. There is a good reason these definitions are so similar. Over half of mass shooters in the United States have a history of domestic violence. 

Over half of mass shooters in the United States have a history of domestic violence. 

One in three women has experienced domestic violence, living with terrorism perpetrated by someone who claims to love them. Decades of research and advocacy have shown us that access to firearms is a key predictor of whether they will live or die.  Female domestic violence victims are more likely to be murdered by their partner with a firearm than all other means combined and are 500% more likely to be murdered if their abuser has access to firearms. This offers us critical insight into how to prevent mass shootings.

Federal laws prohibiting firearm and ammunition possession by criminal domestic violence offenders and protection order respondents have been on the books for decades. While they apply to residents of all states, they are rarely enforced.  However, studies show that passing similar state laws saves lives.

47% fewer women are killed in states that have background checks.  Ohio currently lacks such laws.

There is a 22% reduction in female domestic violence homicides when states prohibit restraining order respondents from accessing firearms.  Prohibiting access to firearms by perpetrators convicted of violent misdemeanors results in a 24% reduction in such homicides.  Requiring permits to purchase firearms reduces domestic violence murders by 10%.  47% fewer women are killed in states that have background checks.  Ohio currently lacks such laws.

Enforcement and accountability are crucial aspects of legal reform.  Firearm prohibitions must be partnered with evidence-based surrender protocols. In at least one-third of mass shootings, the shooter was legally prohibited from possessing firearms at the time of the shooting, most commonly under federal law. Studies have shown a 14% reduction in intimate partner femicides when states require prohibited possessors to surrender guns.  While law enforcement is authorized to seize firearms in some domestic violence situations, there is no Ohio law currently requiring the removal or surrender of firearms in many potentially deadly circumstances.   

Leaving firearms and ammunition in the hands of domestic violence offenders results in terrorism, including murder.  Proven models exist to end these tragedies, and several proposed bills and ballot initiatives in Ohio offer us an opportunity to enact them (Innovation Ohio has an updated list available here).  In collaborative consultation with experts in the domestic violence and other relevant fields, we can craft effective laws and policies that significantly increase safety.  We owe it to the victims – and ourselves – to act.

Ms. Tracy Grinstead-Everly, JD, is a legal, legislative and policy consultant and trainer who has dedicated over three decades to social justice causes, with an emphasis on combatting intimate partner violence. As a hotline advocate, civil attorney, domestic violence mediator, and policy expert, she has had the honor of supporting countless survivors in their journeys toward safety and self-sufficiency. Tracy has done significant legislative and systems advocacy, developing and helping implement laws and policies that promote safer options for survivors and enhance coordinated community response.

Works cited

  1.  United States of America: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA Patriot Act) [United States of America],  26 October 2001,
  2.  “Mass Shootings in the United States: 2009-2017,” Everytown for Gun Safety (2018).
  3.  Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J. & Stevens, M. (2011). The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2010 summary report.  Retrieved from 2
  4.  Sorenson, Susan, Nonfatal Gun Use in Intimate Partner Violence: A Systematic Review of the Literature (2016)..
  5.  18 U.S. Code 922(g)(8) and (9).
  6.  Analysis of the Strength of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Their Associations With Intimate Partner Homicide, April M Zeoli Alexander McCourt Shani Buggs Shannon Frattaroli David Lilley Daniel W Webster, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 187, Issue 7, July 2018, Pages 1449–1455,