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As Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month Begins, Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action Call on Lawmakers to Close the Boyfriend Loophole

February 4, 2021

NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, today released statements to mark Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and call on lawmakers to close the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows abusers to purchase and possess guns even if they have been convicted of abuse or are under a restraining order for abusing a dating partner. 

Guns exacerbate the power and control dynamic used by domestic abusers to inflict emotional abuse and exert coercive control over their victims — which is only worsened by conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic. When abusers are convicted of domestic violence or subject to final restraining orders, they should be blocked from purchasing or possessing guns and required to turn in those they already own. However under federal law and even in many states where these laws are enacted, the “boyfriend loophole” allows abusive dating partners to access firearms.

“Domestic violence, including teen dating violence, is a public health crisis and our weak gun laws exacerbate an already deadly situation,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Lawmakers can take immediate steps to address this problem— including Congress reauthorizing the federal Violence Against Women Act to close the boyfriend loophole, which will prevent domestic abusers from accessing guns.”

“I know how traumatic it can be to experience teen dating violence,” said Celeste Iroha, a volunteer with Students Demand Action in Maryland and survivor of teen dating violence. “This month is about uplifting survivors and their advocacy, but it also should come with action. It’s time for lawmakers to close this dangerous loophole.”

Current federal law prohibits people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and abusers under restraining orders from possessing guns only if the abuser has been married to, lives with, or has a child in common with the victim. This means that it doesn’t cover abusive dating partners. The exclusion of abusive dating partners from firearms restrictions is especially outdated given the changing nature of relationships. And, this gap is increasingly deadly: The share of homicides committed by dating partners has been increasing for three decades, and now women are as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses.

Research shows that when states broadened their firearm prohibition laws beyond federal law to cover abusive dating partners, the states experienced a 16 percent reduction in intimate partner firearm homicide rates.

This February, Everytown is honoring victims and survivors of teen dating violence — and calling on policymakers at every level to keep children and teens safe by closing the boyfriend loophole immediately.

To speak with a policy expert, Moms Demand Action and/or Students Demand Action volunteer, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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