Myth No. 11: The availability of guns contributes to crimes of passion.

Are most murders, particularly of friends and relatives, committed by otherwise peaceful citizens who happen to have loaded guns available in a moment of anger, and who make one slip? Rarely. Domestic homicide usually is a terminal episode in a syndrome of violence rather than an isolated event. When a husband kills a wife, it usually is with his fists or a bludgeon, and he has beaten her many times before. Significantly, if a firearm is used when one spouse kills another, it more often is the wife who uses it in defense against her larger, more aggressive male partner.68 Most of these wives are never indicted because they are legally defending themselves or their children.

About 40 percent of defensive gun uses are connected with assaults in the home,69 and most presumably are cases of family violence.70 But the notion that much serious violence is accounted for by previously nonviolent people in "crime-of-passion" domestic homicides is wrong.71 For example, in a Kansas City study, in nine out of ten domestic "crime-of-passion" homicides, police had responded to disturbance calls at the same address within the preceding two years an average (median) of five times.72 Moreover, it's not clear what difference gun control laws would make. A large number of men who kill in these circumstances have a previous history of convictions and, as felons, are forbidden by current law to have a gun. One crime study concludes:73

It is commonly hypothesized that much criminal violence, especially homicide, occurs simply because the means of lethal violence (firearms) are readily at hand, and thus that much homicide would not occur were firearms generally less available. There is no persuasive evidence that supports this view.

"In most domestic homicides, there is a pattern of previous violence."

© 1996 NCPA