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?

marthamatchObviously 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.


Join the Conversation


    1. It’s easy enough that several young children have killed their siblings, while playing with an unsecured gun. Easy enough that very small children have killed friends on playgrounds and in schools, while playing with a gun they found in their home.

      Guns serve no purpose other than maiming or killing, they perform no other utility.

      Gun ownership made loud and clear on dating sites will save lives. It will help women and mean learn which profiles to avoid, or which potential suitors to tread carefully with.

  1. I know you wrote this post a few years back, but I just found your blog (which I love!) and stumbled on this post (which – to be honest I don’t love). And its not because I disagree with your premise, its just that this post lacks the evidentiary support for your broad conclusion, namely:

    “If you are a woman and the person you are dating has a gun statistically you are more likely to die.”

    All of your other posts cite to medical journals, reputable sources, and generally shoot down theories that aren’t supported by evidence (e.g. lotus births (I mean, what?!)). I love this about your blog. You consistently apply sound reasoning to the facts and support your assertions with substantial evidence. Except here. If the person you are dating has a gun you are “statistically” more likely to die. But no statistical evidence is given to support that conclusion. Moreover, do you mean all people who own guns are more likely to shoot their significant other? Does this include police officers? Are you referring to only accidental deaths or does this conclusion include intentional deaths as well? Or are you referring to cases where there is evidence of domestic violence? In that case I think perhaps a more accurate conclusion would be to say something like – the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by a factor of 500. [See http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics%5D.

    I point this out only because this post seems inconsistent from what you usually post in your blog. I’m not saying the statistics and the evidence isn’t out there. I’m just saying you haven’t provided it for your reader here.

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