What Women Think They Know About Gun Laws (And How They're Wrong)

It may be surprising to learn that many convicted domestic abusers are currently allowed to legally buy guns. Federal law prevents abusive spouses and co-parents from legally having guns. But convicted abusers of dating partners, those facing restraining orders, or convicted stalkers can currently pass a background check and legally buy an AR-15.

This is the reality, but it's not the perception. In Purple Strategies' recent survey of women voters, sponsored by Everytown for Gun Safety, majorities presumed these other types of abusers could not legally have guns. So not surprisingly, eight in ten women (81%) support Senator Klobuchar's (D-MN) proposal to expand the definition of abuser to include stalkers and abusers of dating partners. (Note: At Purple, I led this polling effort; this post reflects my own views.)

Support extends across party lines. The survey included an oversample of an additional 200 Republican and Independent women; over three-fourths (77%) of them support this proposal. Even 75% of women who own guns support the bill. This is consistent with this recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll, showing a majority of Republicans (of both genders) support this proposal.

Not only does the Klobuchar bill close a loophole most women are unaware even exists, most also feel it will make women safer. Over half (62%) say the law will make women safer, including 51% of Republicans and Independents.

Those who might know best say the law could be even more helpful. The 44% in our survey with personal experience with domestic violence or stalking, and the 25% with personal experience with gun violence, are particularly likely to feel the proposal will make women safer (64%, 70%).


Why is support so transcendent? Perhaps because three-fourths of women (and over two-thirds of Republicans an Independents) feel we can both protect 2nd Amendment rights while also keeping guns out of dangerous hands. Only a fifth (19%) say every gun law is an infringement on the 2nd Amendment.

And while many may think guns are a third rail of American politics, women say they will reward, not punish, a candidate for supporting this expansion of the definition of abuser. By 3-to-1, women say they are more likely to vote for a candidate with this view. Even among Republicans and Independents, more will reward a candidate.

So while some wonder if stronger gun laws are too restrictive, or too controversial, remember most women assume the laws are stronger than they actually are. And remember this sobering reality: In the last decade, more women were killed by an intimate partner using a gun than troops killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Come November, women across party lines may reward candidates working to solve problems, rather than leaning on partisan perceptions.