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Most states have laws prohibiting people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from having guns, but Utah does not. This is incredibly disturbing because the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. Federal law prohibits criminals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from having guns, and this legislative session Rep. Brian King and Sen. Deidre Henderson introduced House Bill 206, legislation that would bring Utah law in line with federal law and empower Utah law enforcement officials to better protect victims of abuse from gun violence.

As the executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, a team of direct victim service organizations who provide over 100,000 nights of emergency shelter and supportive services each year to victims of domestic violence in Utah, I strongly support this bill. Over the last 17 years, domestic violence homicides have accounted for 42 percent of Utah's murders. After at least one-third of those homicides, the perpetrator commits suicide — and firearms are the most commonly used weapon.

The truth is, women in America are facing an epidemic of gun violence. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, American women are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed than women in other developed nations. Every month, 50 women are shot and killed in the United States by a current or former spouse. Nearly one million American women alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. And gun violence towards women doesn't stop at the death count — abusers use guns to threaten their victim, even if they never pull the trigger. Approximately 4.5 million American women alive today have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner.

If these egregious statistics are not disturbing enough to convince our legislators of the importance of laws to keep guns away from known abusers, let's talk about the economic cost. Every day, staff members and volunteers at the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition witness the medical, mental health and loss of productivity costs suffered by victims of domestic abuse. Domestic violence costs the country over $8 billion annually, and 13.5 million days of work are lost each year due to domestic violence.

The mission of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition is to create a state where domestic and sexual violence are intolerable. A basic first step in achieving that mission is to prohibit domestic abusers from purchasing firearms. In Utah, 1 in 3 women experience domestic abuse or intimate partner violence in their lifetime. And the majority of male perpetrators of domestic violence homicide used a firearm, had a criminal domestic violence history and should not have had access to guns. These kinds of murders in Utah could be reduced by prohibiting gun possession by convicted domestic abusers, and abusers under restraining orders — both which are addressed in HB206.

The difference in the number of deaths related to domestic violence between the U.S. and other developed countries is the easy access that dangerous people have to firearms. I'm proud of our elected officials in the House for voting to take action to make our gun laws stronger, preventing known abusers from having easy access to guns and standing up for women across their state. I urge our representatives in the Senate to listen to their communities, pass HB206 and help saves lives.

Jenn Oxborrow is executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.