My name is Jenn Lawlor and I am the mother of both a murdered child as well as a young son shattered in the devastation of gun violence.
Our lives changed forever on December 9, 2018, when we woke and learned my daughter Emily had not come home. After nine hours filled with frantic calls, texts and searching passed I looked out the window hoping to see her pull up and instead saw nearly a dozen police officers approaching my door… one of them had a file in his hand.
He was very clear that this was an emergency and he needed to talk to me. A body had been found overnight but was not identified. The nameless young woman had been shot in the back of the head and was unrecognizable.
As they tried to speak to me and opened that file for me to identify my daughter through photos of her tattoos I am sure that I died that day… I think I died the very minute they knocked on my door, though, somehow, I have crawled and fought my way through the last 22 months and am here writing this letter today.
October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Gun related domestic violence is a deadly crisis facing women and families in the U.S. every day. On average, 53 women in the U.S. are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month and nearly 1 million women alive today have been shot or shot at by a partner with millions more having been threatened with a gun.
I write today asking you to get involved in the urgent work being done to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Federal law generally prohibits convicted abusers subject to restraining orders from buying or having guns, though it does not cover abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers.
There are some very dangerous loopholes in federal and state laws that make it easy for domestic abusers to get their hands on firearms. Access to guns makes it five times more likely an abuser will kill their victim. Here in Connecticut, legislation from the last session to close these loopholes has been on hold as we navigate through a global pandemic. If passed in the next session, HB 5448 would make several updates to the current Extreme Risk Protection law.
It would expand eligibility of those who could petition the court for an order to include family or household members and specific medical professionals. The bill would also prevent a person subject to an order from obtaining new firearms as well as change the length of time a protective order is in place. Current law is in place for one year, though in the new bill an order would be in place indefinitely while allowing an individual to petition the court asking to regain access to their firearms every 180 days.
If you or someone you know are a victim or survivor you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233 where someone is available 24/7 or, if it’s not safe to talk on the phone, you can use the chat feature at www.thehotline.org for confidential assistance.
Jenn Lawlor of Bethel is a Survivor Fellow, Everytown for Gun Safety.