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Sisters Sousan "Juju" Arab, left, and Nasim Arab were fatally shot last year in Houston.

Nasim had left her ex-boyfriend Arian Hojat two weeks earlier, after his behavior — possessiveness, a quick temper, a fixation with guns — became too troubling to ignore. He was scheduled to come pick up his things from her apartment in Houston later that day, and Sahar feared what he might do.

“I pleaded with her: ‘Please don’t meet him. Leave stuff at the leasing office,’” Sahar told FRONTLINE. “I literally said, ‘He could kill you, Nasim.’”

It was the last time they spoke. Within hours, Sahar’s sisters were fatally shot, with Hojat as the sole suspect. He would be found in his car days later, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Nasim and Juju were among more than 2,000 people killed by domestic-violence-related shootings in 2020 — a 4% increase nationwide over 2019, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shootings across the United States.

But that uptick was not equally distributed. While some states saw shooting fatalities from domestic violence stay level or even decrease in 2020, an analysis of data from the Gun Violence Archive revealed that others saw major spikes. To find out why, FRONTLINE spoke to researchers, advocates and law enforcement from four of the worst-affected states across the country.

Domestic violence advocates in three of those states — Texas, Utah and Missouri — said their states’ weak gun laws could be a factor, but a fourth, Maryland, has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. The data, and the questions it evokes, has advocates and law enforcement raising alarms and looking for answers.
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