While criminals will get guns illegally, and people who use guns to commit suicide may not be deterred by anything, people who are already prone to violence would be deterred from homicide by gun law changes, according to a new article which argues that federal and state laws should include people who abuse their partners regardless of whether they are married to them or not. And findings of abuse should be grounds for not being allowed access to guns. 

The authors analyzed data extracted from the North Carolina Violent Death Reporting System between 2004 to 2013. As the state-wide system links all violent deaths occurring in the same incident, Smucker's team was able to extract information from all incidents that included both a suicide and a murder.

During the decade under investigation, 6,440 homicides were reported in North Carolina. Of these, 813 (16.8 percent) cases involved murder of a person by someone identified as their intimate partner. Women were the victim in three out of every four such cases, and were killed 99 percent of the time by a man.

Furthermore, the researchers found that one in every two cases in which someone was murdered by their intimate partner also ended in the perpetrator committing suicide. Guns were the weapon of choice seven out of every ten times. In 86.6 percent of these cases, men pulled the trigger before turning the gun on themselves too. Men were also more likely to kill other victims including the victim's children or parents if a gun was used. Including these additional deaths, male-perpetrated incidents of intimate partner homicide averaged 50 per cent more deaths if a gun was used compared to similar crimes committed with other weapons.

The findings support previous research that suggests homicide-suicides are more prevalent in intimate partner homicides than other types of murders, and that firearms are often the weapon of choice for such crimes. Existing research and this study show that children and other family members are often also victims in such crimes.