Violence against women often precedes mass shootings.
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, has been accused of committing several violent acts against women.
James T. Hodgkinson, who died from injuries during the incident, was arrested for assaulting a woman in 2006, according to NBC News, when she tried to get involved in a domestic dispute. The outlet initially reported the woman was Hodgkinson’s girlfriend at the time, then outlets clarified that she was the girlfriend of a witness.
According to a police report about the incident, reviewed by The Daily Beast, Hodgkinson became upset when his daughter refused to leave with him and was also seen throwing his daughter around a bedroom when she refused. He reportedly hit her arms and pulled her hair. The woman who was assaulted, Aimee Moreland, said she would call the police and Hodgkinson then punched her in the face. Domestic abuse charges brought against him for this incident were eventually dropped.
Hodgkinson posted anti-Trump messages on social media and was critical of Republican policies, leading to a rush to blame “liberal rhetoric” for the tragedy in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
But given what we know about mass shootings, violence against and hatred toward girls and women is a more common predictor of committing mass acts of violence than opposition to Republican policies or politicians is.
Robert Dear, the man who shot and killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood last year, had a history of domestic violence and leering. Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people and injured many others at an Orlando nightclub last year in one of the largest shootings in U.S. history, also perpetrated violence against his ex-wife.
The list goes on. In January, Esteban Santiago opened fire in Fort Laurderdale-Hollywood International Airport, killing five people. Santiago had allegations of domestic violence on his record and was arrested last year for attacking his girlfriend. In April, Cedric Anderson opened fire in a special education classroom at an elementary school in San Bernardino, California. Anderson had a history of domestic abuse and went to the school because his wife worked there; he killed her along with one of her 8-year-old students.
In fact, according to an Everytown for Gun Safety report, during the 2009–2016 period, 54 percent of U.S. mass shootings were related to domestic or family violence. And many of the shooters who don’t have previous histories of violence toward women have displayed misogynist attitudes in their writing and online activity — such as Elliot Rodger, who killed seven people in a shooting rampage in Southern California in 2014 after being romantically rejected by several women and vowing to “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see.”
But efforts to stop people with histories of domestic abuse from buying or possessing a firearm have mixed results, because our laws don’t recognize how abuse works, who is targeted, and what behaviors lead up to violence. Although there is a federal law that prohibits people convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from buying or possessing a firearm, this only applies to co-parents and those who are legally married and even those convicted of misdemeanor stalking are exempt. Slate’s rundown of connections between domestic violence and mass shootings explained that unmarried partners kill even more women than married partners do, making the law a bit weak in its narrow application.
A 2016 Government Accountability Office report found that it takes the FBI longer to complete background checks for domestic violence convictions than for other prohibitors, and that delayed denials made it easier for people convicted of domestic violence to get their hands on guns.
The Virginia mass shooter has a history of violence against women allegations was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.