Legislative Testimony by David Adams Statement before the Joint Committee on Public Safety & Homeland Security September 13, 2013
David Adams, Ed.D. Co-Executive Director, Emerge, Director of the National Danger Assessment Training Project, and author of Why Do They Kill? Men Who Murder Their Intimate Partners
Thank you members of the Joint Committee for holding this hearing. As someone who has providing counseling for over 35 years to men who abuse their intimate partners, I’ve seen how often guns are used by abusers as a terror tactic to menace and control their victims. Those who possess firearms have also been found to be much more likely to use a firearm to kill their partner. To illustrate this, I’d like to share some of the findings specific to the study I conducted of 31 men who killed their intimate partners in MA. These 31 men were all serving time for murder of manslaughter. One argument against gun restrictions is that if someone is intent to kill someone, they will still kill even if a gun is not available. I decided to test this theory among the killers I interviewed. One question I asked those who had killed with a gun was whether they think they would still have killed if they had not had easy access to a gun. Eleven of the 14 men who used a gun said that they would not have killed if the gun were not available. Here are some of their specific answers: One man said, “I was intoxicated and did not have the strength to stab or choke her” Another said, “It happened so fast….. I would have come to in the time it took to take out a knife” A third man said, “A gun depersonalizes…. I wouldn’t have gone through with it if I had to think about it” And a fourth man said, “I hate knives…. I’ve been stabbed” I also asked the killers who had used other methods whether they would have used a gun if one had been available. Here, I found that 4 out of the 6 who had stabbed their victims said yes, while the other two said no because a gun would have made too much noise and prevented their escape. Of the 8 men who strangled their partners, only one said he would have used a gun. He said, “If I had a gun I would have used it earlier, that’s why I didn’t keep one in the house”. Guns are a known facilitator of intimate partner homicide. In her research on intimate partner homicides, Jacquelyn Campbell found that just the presence of a gun in the victim’s home makes it five times more likely that she will be killed by her intimate partner with a gun. Most of the killers I interviewed should not have had access to a gun. Four of the 14 shooters had illegally purchased a gun from a trafficker. Three had failed to surrender a gun after their partners had obtained a restraining order. And even though 7 of the killers had legal possession of a gun, most of them would have been denied a gun license if we had expanded background checks that include severe mental health and substance abuse histories. I want to give you just one example. The youngest killer whom I interviewed was a man in Worcester MA who was 19 years old at the time of the murder. On the night that he killed his girlfriend, whom he did not live with, he and she had gone to a series of keg parties. He eventually returned to his apartment without his girlfriend where he was having another keg party with his friends. His girlfriend showed up later and when she arrived, she started yelling at him for having stranded her at another keg party. He responded by repeatedly slapping her in the face right in front of his friends. His male roommate jumped between them and tried to stop him from hitting her. The killer then went to his bedroom and took his AK47 assault rifle. He went back to the living room and said to his roommate, “You want to be a hero” and then shot and killed him. Then when his girlfriend was screaming at him, he told me he was thinking, “Well, I already killed one person”, so he then shot and killed his girlfriend. When asked if he still would have killed those two people if he did not have the rifle, he looked at me like I had two heads and said, “There were 30 people in my apartment, how could I have stabbed them?”. This is a clear example of two people who would not be dead were it not for the easy access to a firearm. And what would be the reason for this 19 year old man from Worcester MA to have an assault rifle? He was not a hunter, and an AK47 is not even a hunting weapon. He was a severe alcohol had a history of multiple arrests for drunk driving and public intoxication. And yet his application for a firearms permit was approved. Because if you are a severe alcoholic in MA and you want to own a firearm, you are good to go. Over 50 percent of the killers I interviewed fit the profile of substance abusers who had a history of extreme possessive jealousy toward intimate partners. In my book, I refer to this type of abuser as a jealous drunk. A jealous drunk really as bad as it gets in terms of lethal risk. The only thing worse than a jealous drunk, is a jealous drunk with a gun, and one third of the killers whom I interviewed fit that profile. I support expanded firearms background checks that examine the gun purchaser’s mental health and substance abuse history, particularly to see if it has been accompanied by violence or threats of violence toward others or oneself. Many serious abusers already have the motive to kill their intimate partner or ex-partner; let’s stop making it so easy for them to have the means to do so. Thank you.
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