Breaking News
More () »

More than half of all Iowans killed in a domestic violence incident were killed with a gun

The Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Iowa Attorney General's Office says the most dangerous time for victims is when they decide to leave.

IOWA, USA — If you or someone you know needs help in an abusive relationship,call 1-800-770-1650 or text ‘IOWAHELP’ to 20121.

Last week, the Story County Sheriff shed some light on what led up to the murders of Eden Montang and Vivian Flores outside Cornerstone Church in Ames. The man who shot and killed them was a former boyfriend of Eden's. The sheriff says the pair had recently split up. 

Sandi Tibbetts Murphy is the Division Director for the Crime Victim Assistance Division at the Iowa Attorney General's Office. She said it's likely someone saw the warning signs before the shooter acted.

"My guess is somebody in that man's life knew about his anger," said Tibbetts Murphy. "Knew about how he felt about Eden, about the ending of the relationship, maybe had heard him say some things. And it's at that time that we as the public, as friends and family, need to step up and notify people."

According to data from the Crime Victim Assistance Division, when looking at the domestic violence homicides in Iowa stretching back to 1995, more than a third happened either after the woman had left or as they were trying to leave. 

"I think [what] is quite evident in what little we know of what happened in Ames, is that the most dangerous time for women in violent relationships is when they're trying to leave," said Tibbetts Murphy. 

CVAD's data also shows roughly 54% of those murdered in a domestic violence situation were killed with a gun. 

"That doesn't even count the number of times that the batterer would use the gun simply to threaten or intimidate," said Tibbetts Murphy. 

Tibbetts Murphy said there's a loophole on the federal level that makes this trend so concerning. It's commonly referred to as the "Boyfriend Loophole." Federal statutes dictate if there's a domestic violence conviction or order of protection, the abuser would be restricted from owning a firearm or ammunition. 

But this only applies if the victim is the abuser's spouse, former spouse or cohabitant, or if the couple share a child. It does not apply to those who are simply dating. 

"So if there is a domestic violence conviction or protection order, but unfortunately the relationship involves a boyfriend or girlfriend, the federal prohibition on firearms does not apply to that situation," said Tibbetts Murphy. 

Tibbetts Murphy said in the last session in Washington D.C., there was work underway for lawmakers to close this gap, but it fell short. She and other domestic violence advocates said change needs to happen on local or state levesls, to prevent abusers from falling through the cracks. 

"We just we don't have a consistent way of getting that vital information to the people who need it to make those kinds of decisions," said Tibbetts Murphy. "And that would be something ideal that if we could implement across the state, I think would would tremendously help victims, as well as offenders so that they're not running running into this sort of tragic and lethal behavior."

Before You Leave, Check This Out