Today, the House passed a bipartisan omnibus spending package that included a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, including a landmark common sense gun safety policy fix. The bill, which will need to pass the Senate before going to the president’s desk, fills many critical needs of survivors. In a major win for gun safety, it includes a provision that requires the federal government to notify relevant state, local or tribal law enforcement when a convicted domestic abuser lies on a background check in an attempt to illegally buy a gun – known as NICS Denial Notification. Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action have championed NICS Denial Notification for years, which would give law enforcement the opportunity to intervene before an abuser or any other prohibited purchaser can illegally obtain a firearm or do further harm.
The inclusion of this important gun safety provision in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is a massive victory, but NICS Denials Notification is not the only tool law enforcement needs to keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation that would have closed the “dating partner loophole.” The dating partner loophole allows certain abusive dating partners to purchase and possess guns even if they have been convicted of abuse or are under a restraining order for abusing a dating partner. Following the reauthorization of VAWA, Everytown and Moms Demand Action will be calling on President Biden to enforce the law in alignment with VAWA’s original intent and clarify that dating partners “similarly situated to a spouse” who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic abuse are prohibited from purchasing or possessing guns.
“After years of tireless advocacy by Moms Demand Action volunteers, we’re grateful that the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act is one step closer to being reauthorized, and that it includes NICS Denial Notification, which will crack down on convicted domestic abusers who lie on background checks in an attempt to illegally buy a gun,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “But because married women aren’t the only victims of domestic violence, we must close the dating partner loophole that puts so many unprotected women and children at risk. Thankfully, President Biden has the authority to address that deadly loophole through executive action, and we are asking him to do so immediately.”
“The inclusion of NICS Denial Notifications in the VAWA reauthorization means that federal authorities will finally be required to let local law enforcement know when a domestic abuser or other convicted criminal tries to illegally buy a gun, which is a huge red flag for potential gun violence,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We’re grateful for the tireless work of Sens. Feinstein, Ernst, Durbin for leading a bipartisan effort to reauthorize this critical legislation, and call on the Senate to pass it as soon as possible.”
The Violence Against Women Act, originally passed on a bipartisan basis in the 1990s and authored by then-Senator Joe Biden, provides critical resources supporting comprehensive, cost-effective responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Congress last reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.
Domestic abusers far too frequently attempt to illegally purchase firearms: from November 1998 through February 2022, NICS reported it denied 178,000 gun sales to domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanor crimes and more than 72,000 sales to abusers subject to a domestic violence restraining order. These denial alerts to the relevant state, local and tribal law enforcement will allow them to intervene in a potentially dangerous situation and save lives.
Weak gun laws are a key risk factor that contributes to the deadly violence women face in America. Recently released CDC data show that intimate partner gun violence kills an average of 70 women each month. Beyond murders, nearly one million women are living with the scars and trauma of being shot or shot at by an intimate partner. Under current federal law, people convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence are only prohibited from possessing guns if they were married to, lived with, or share a child in common with their victim – but today women in America are just as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses. President Biden could enforce the law in alignment with VAWA’s original intent and clarify that dating partners “similarly situated to a spouse” who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic abuse are prohibited from purchasing or possessing guns.
Intimate partner violence and gun violence in the U.S. are inextricably linked, impacting millions of women, families, and communities across the country –– which is why addressing the dating partner loophole would be a landmark step towards saving women’s lives in America. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. More information on the link between guns and domestic violence is available here and resources for survivors of domestic abuse can be found here.
Also included in the omnibus spending bill is a new, specific investment in community violence intervention that will fund the work that local groups are doing on the ground to stop the shooting before it starts. Everytown and Moms Demand Action have long called for increased investment in community violence intervention and the Biden-Harris Administration has been vociferous in their support for community-based solutions to gun violence. Last April, the Biden-Harris Administration unlocked existing grant funding and Medicaid to be put towards community violence intervention programs. In November, the White House joined a press call hosted by Everytown to discuss the community violence intervention funding included in the Build Back Better bill and regularly convenes a community violence intervention collaborative run out of the West Wing.