Tiffany (left) and Brittany Coffland, twin 16-year-olds, were fatally shot by their father, Randall Coffland, in a domestic incident in St. Charles on Friday, police said. | Photos from Facebook and Vine

Mitchell: Domestic violence could happen anywhere

SHARE Mitchell: Domestic violence could happen anywhere
SHARE Mitchell: Domestic violence could happen anywhere

Follow @MaryMitchellCSTIt all comes down to guns.

Children caught in the crossfire.

Gang violence.

Mass killings.

Domestic violence.

Take away the guns and maybe innocents like Tiffany and Brittany Coffland, 16-year-old twin sisters fatally shot by their father in their St. Charles home on Friday, would have survived.

I know. People are also stabbed and beaten to death.

But it is the availability to put one’s hand on a lethal weapon in a moment of fear, or hatred, or anger, or insanity that has resulted in so many Americans being killed.


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At least 6,235 people were fatally shot by romantic partners from 2006 to 2014, according to FBI and state crime data analyzed by the Associated Press.

Illinois reported 38 such deaths but that number is an undercount — only the Chicago and Rockford police departments report to the FBI.

“This doesn’t happen in St. Charles,” a classmate of one of the murdered girls told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter.

But the truth is, it does happen in places just like St. Charles.

Randall Coffland | Linked In

Randall Coffland | Linked In

Randall Coffland fatally shot himself after killing his daughters and shooting is wife, Anjum Coffland, in the leg.

On a 911 call, the father could be heard shouting, apparently to his wife, “I want you to live and suffer like I did.”

This is the worst case of domestic violence that I can recall, and it shows why gun violence is more than urban America’s problem.

No one ever knows for sure what goes on behind someone else’s closed door, but it is obvious this was a troubled relationship.

Although married, the couple lived in separate apartments, with the girls living with their father in the St. Charles condo.

Police had been called to the home as recently as Feb. 9, after a report of a domestic problem, although that incident did not involve physical abuse.

On Friday, police found two 9 mm handguns at the condo. The guns were apparently legal because Randall Coffland had a valid firearm’s owner’s identification card, according to police.

But what if the guns had not been there on Friday?

What if the police had been required to ask the firearms owner to surrender any guns after the first domestic incident report?

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that people convicted of minor domestic violence offenses can be barred from possessing guns, even in states where no proof of physical violence is required to support the domestic violence charge.

That ruling made a lot of sense.

An estimated 4.5 million women have been bullied with guns by abusive partners, the “Trace,” an independent nonprofit news organization, reported.

While federal law bars domestic abusers from owning guns, the enforcement is left up to states.

Unfortunately, many of us tend to underestimate the dangers of domestic violence.

In real life, you just don’t expect a father to become so unhinged he would do what Coffland did.

But according to an Associated Press summary of domestic-related homicides, “current wives and girlfriends comprised nearly 75 percent of all victims in fatal domestic shootings. Overall, women were the victims in more than four out of every five of these types of incidents.”

A couple of years ago, a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine conducted research that could help identify domestic abusers who are likely to suddenly murder a family member or partner.

“The domestic murderers were at a much, much higher rate of psychotic mental illness than the non-domestic murderers,” researcher Robert Hanlon found.

“They also were marginally less likely to have a history of prior felony convictions,” the researchers noted.

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell when an abuser will snap.

What we do know is that if there is a gun in the home, there is a higher risk of domestic homicide.

For help: Call the State of Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline: 877-863-6338.

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