Time for a new conversation about the shooting

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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Since Stephen Paddock opened fire on concert-goers in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more, we’ve heard a lot of different conversations.

Gun restrictions.

Mental health.

Hotel security measures.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

Paddock didn’t seem to have the traits that often produce red flags with these types of mass shootings: he didn’t seem to have any strong political or religious leanings, for instance.

But according to a few stories I’ve read, he may have two traits that the majority of mass shooters in this country do share: he’s a man, and he has a history of domestic abuse.

Name just about every recent mass shooting – the man who shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the Pulse nightclub shooter in Orlando, the Planned Parenthood shooter in Colorado Springs – and you’ll discover a history of domestic abuse.

According to a Los Angeles Times story published last week, Paddock would often be heard being verbally abusive to his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, at the local coffee shop.

The Times interviewed employees at a Starbucks inside a casino the two would visit regularly. Esperanza Mendoza, a supervisor at the Starbucks, said Paddock would often berate Danley when she asked to use his casino card to make purchases.

“He would glare down at her and say – with a mean attitude – ‘You don’t need my casino card for this. I’m paying for your drink, just like I’m paying for you.’ Then she would softly say, ‘OK’ and step back behind him. He was so rude to her in front of us,” Mendoza was quoted in the Times article.

Thankfully, I’ve never had to cover a mass shooting here in Wise County. But I have covered murders.

In nearly every case, the murder involved some type of domestic violence situation.

Since this is Domestic Violence Awareness month, it might be a good time to revisit some statistics on this serious issue.

The Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center here in Wise County shares the following sobering statistics on their website, wisehope.org:

  • One in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the United States are victims of domestic abuse at some point in their lives.
  • More than 100 women are murdered by their intimate partners each year in Texas.
  • Three out of 4 people personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
  • One in 5 female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Abused girls are significantly more likely to get involved in other risky behaviors. They are 4 to 6 times more likely to get pregnant and 8 to 9 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide.
  • It is estimated that 3-5 million children witness violence toward their mothers each year. Nearly half (48 percent) of these incidents are never reported to law enforcement.
  • Violence against women costs companies $72.8 million annually due to lost productivity.

There is still much research to be done on the links between mass shootings and domestic violence, but it seems clear that working to prevent domestic violence incidents could have an added benefit of reducing the number of mass shooting incidents.

And unlike some arguments that have become highly politicized, such as gun control, isn’t preventing domestic violence something that everyone can rally around?

Perhaps it is time we start having that conversation.

Brian Knox is the Messenger’s special projects manager.

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