The gunman who killed 26 people and injured 20 at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday had been accused of domestic violence in recent years, making him the latest perpetrator of a mass shooting to have a history of abusing an intimate partner or family members.
Devin Patrick Kelley was court-martialed by the U.S. Air Force and served a year in military prison in 2012 for assaulting his wife and baby stepson. The Texas Department of Public Safety has attributed the shooting to "a domestic situation going on," noting that Kelley's in-laws attended the church and stressing that it was not motivated by beliefs about race, religion, or politics.
But the latest addition to the list of gunmen who have killed in large numbers after their own "domestic situations" and negative statements about women, has left many arguing that violence against partners and children should be taken seriously as a politically-charged behavior—and as a risk factor for other forms of violence.
YES. And yet blinding misogyny is never considered a possible political motivator for mass violence. https://t.co/XyoCiG7yZe— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) November 6, 2017
Fact: Religion isn't an indicator that someone will become a mass shooter and neither is race. Having a history of domestic violence is.— OhNoSheTwitnt (@OhNoSheTwitnt) November 6, 2017
Devin Kelley was charged with domestic violence well before mass shooting, like other men, but we can keep pretending DV isn't a precursor.— Tina Vasquez (@TheTinaVasquez) November 6, 2017
On her show Full Frontal last week, Samantha Bee argued that "abused women are the canary in the coal mine for mass shootings," citing a study by Everytown for Gun Safety which showed that in 54 percent of mass shootings, a partner or family member of the attacker was among the victims.
Several recent high-profile shootings involved gunmen who had exhibited violent or threatening behavior toward women:
- Stephen Paddock, who murdered 58 people in Las Vegas just over a month ago, had a history of berating his girlfriend in public, according to eyewitness accounts.
- Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, had "no record of previous hate crimes" before the shooting—but physically abused his ex-wife and held her hostage before she divorced him.
- Elliot Rodger, who killed six people near Santa Barbara in 2014, was apparently driven to attack by his misogynist views. After the shooting, authorities found a 140-page manifesto, in which Rodger detailed various perceived slights by women and his plan to "wage a war against all women and the men they are attracted to."
In her segment last week, Bee argued that stronger laws should be passed to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, while others have pushed for the recognition of misogyny and violence against women as serious political issues rather than "domestic situations."
As Soraya Chamaly wrote in Rolling Stone after the Pulse shooting, Mateen's ex-wife described him as "showing no sign of violent radicalism," and argued, "it's time our society started to think of physical abuse, possessiveness, and men's entitlement to act in those ways toward women as terroristic, violent and radical."