For 20 years, my ex-husband Jim said he would kill me if I ever tried to leave him. On November 23, 2010 — the day I told him that I wanted a divorce — he tried his best to stay true to his word. That night, Jim came into my room and said he had to show me something. I could see the knife sticking out of his shorts. I couldn’t see the gun in his pocket.
Before I could react, he assaulted me, stabbing me and leaving me bleeding on the ground, despite my best attempts to fight back. He then stood at my feet, pulled out the gun, aimed at my chest and shot. The weapon was my own pink 9 mm Glock.
The bullet missed my heart by 4 inches. Jim, thinking I was dead, left the room to shower the blood off. I used the opportunity to escape, flagging down a passing car that took me to the hospital and saved my life.
I’m a woman who knows how to defend herself. As one of the most successful female boxers of all time, I made a career of dispatching would-be assailants. But all my years of training proved useless when my abusive husband decided he would murder me with my own weapon. It was, in the end, pure luck that saved me from becoming one of the 48 women shot to death by a current or former boyfriend or spouse every month.
I am still a gun owner and a proud supporter of the Second Amendment. That said, my experience serves to illustrate how deadly guns can be in the hands of deranged domestic abusers like Jim. When these violent individuals have access to firearms, all too often it is innocent women who find themselves killed or seriously injured.
On July 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Violence Against Women Act Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence,” where it will discuss this tragic intersection of gun violence and domestic abuse, as well as the urgent steps Congress must take to protect women across the nation.
After all, as a recent Everytown for Gun Safety report found, American women are 11 times more likely to be killed with guns than in other developed nations. Further, more than half of these female gun deaths come at the hands of domestic partners or family members.
This is unacceptable, and it’s precisely why I am in Washington this week — to demand that our representatives take immediate action to protect women. They should start by supporting and co-sponsoring Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s, D-Minn., Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013. This bill would close obvious loopholes in federal law that allow abusers to own and use guns by adding stalkers and dating partners convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or subject to restraining orders to the list of federally prohibited gun purchasers.
More women today are killed by dating partners than by spouses — but abusive dating partners are not prohibited from buying and keeping guns. And it is no coincidence that, in a study of 10 major cities, nearly 9 in 10 attempted murders of women had involved at least one incident of stalking in the prior year.
Some argue that removing guns from abusive situations takes away women’s best means of protecting themselves. Before my husband used my own gun against me, I may have agreed. Unfortunately, the numbers show that my tragic experience is far more common than the alternative: Women in domestic conflicts are nearly 10 times more likely to be threatened or shot with a gun than to use the gun in self-defense.
As a result, the very presence of a gun in a domestic conflict makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. Federal law, however, still allows large numbers of convicted domestic abusers to own guns. Until these loopholes are closed and all men who beat and stalk women are barred from firearm ownership, we can’t expect to make a serious dent in the horrific stream of gun violence against women that plagues our nation.
I am one of the lucky ones. I was saved by freak chance — a bullet missing my heart by mere inches. But now I can’t sit idly by as hundreds of women pay the price for weak laws that allow their abusers or stalkers to easily get their hands on guns. My support of Second Amendment rights for all law-abiding gun owners remains unwavering. But when men convicted of threatening, stalking and abusing women are afforded the same protections as the rest of us, innocent women die.
Christy Martin is a former championship boxer who was in an abusive relationship with her husband and manager for many years.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.