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Sunday, October 20, 2013

When domestic violence and guns collide, tragedy

No parent should ever have to bury their child. Sadly, that is my story – I was there holding her in the hospital when my daughter came into the world and, tragically, I was there when her life ended at the barrel of a gun in the wrong hands.

Four years ago, I accompanied my daughter Melissa to her home to gather her belongings. Two days earlier, Melissa had filed a domestic abuse complaint against her estranged husband, who had choked and battered my daughter on a number of occasions – including one incident in which he threw her down a staircase. ...

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No parent should ever have to bury their child. Sadly, that is my story – I was there holding her in the hospital when my daughter came into the world and, tragically, I was there when her life ended at the barrel of a gun in the wrong hands.

Four years ago, I accompanied my daughter Melissa to her home to gather her belongings. Two days earlier, Melissa had filed a domestic abuse complaint against her estranged husband, who had choked and battered my daughter on a number of occasions – including one incident in which he threw her down a staircase.

I was proud of Melissa for standing up for herself. I was proud of her for knowing she deserved better.

While at her home, her estranged husband – who had just been released on bail with only a minor complaint for domestic abuse – gunned down Melissa, shot me, and then took his own life.

Every day Melissa’s murder, my involvement as a victim, and the suicide of her husband haunts me. These dark memories will not go away, perhaps because in my mind I do not want them to. I could not fight for my daughter’s life that day because the discharge of a weapon such as a gun was too quick and decisive.

Another victim from all this is their 7-year-old son. His parents are now gone forever. How can a child even begin to understand?

The severity of this horrible event compels me to work tirelessly to prevent the senseless violence that too many innocent Americans endure every day. Events like this one are all too common. And while I was unable to fight at the moment Melissa was murdered, I am fighting now to honor her memory and ensure that others don’t have to suffer a similar fate.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to shine a light on this devastating issue – and an opportunity to highlight the dangerous connection between domestic abuse and guns.

Domestic abuse is often more than just bruises, black eyes, and nasty words. It can turn deadly when guns are involved: On average, 46 women are shot to death each month by a current or former intimate partner. In fact, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed.

And even with a domestic violence conviction that would prohibit gun purchases, the private sale loophole makes it incredibly easy for guns to fall into the hands of dangerous people. That’s because private unlicensed sellers like those at gun shows and online are not legally required to run background checks on buyers.

But there are common-sense measures we can take to help save women’s lives. Comprehensive background checks will keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people. Since its inception in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has blocked more than 2 million gun purchases by prohibited buyers.

To be sure, these checks are just part of the solution to domestic violence – but they are a critical part. In states that require a comprehensive background check on every private handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by an intimate partner. It should come as little surprise then that nearly 90 percent of Granite Staters support comprehensive background checks.

But despite this overwhelming support, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte was part of a minority this past April that voted against the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey background check legislation.

I voted for Sen. Ayotte and have extended my support to her. I want her to succeed, but her success and trust is based on supporting public safety in our state. Right now, she is failing Granite Staters.

This October, during domestic violence awareness month, I urge Sen. Ayotte to take a second look at a common-sense gun reforms that will keep guns out of the wrong hands. I ask her to do this for Granite Staters, for women, for parents throughout the nation, and for my daughter.

Cantin, a Manchester resident, has been an advocate against domestic abuse and gun violence since his daughter’s murder in 2009.