As the Risk of Domestic Abuse Rises Across America, the Bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act Still Sits Untouched on Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s Desk
NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, the grassroots arm of Everytown, denounced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his allies for one year of inaction on the bipartisan House-passed version of the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), which includes life-saving measures to disarm abusive dating partners and stalkers. The bill was passed one year ago tomorrow, on April 4th, 2019. An estimated 600+ women have been shot and killed by domestic abusers while Senator McConnell has failed to even give the bill a vote.
The bipartisan House-passed version of VAWA would close the boyfriend loophole––a gap in federal firearm laws that allows abusive dating partners who have been convicted of abuse or placed under a final restraining order to purchase and possess guns. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who is the lead Republican negotiator on VAWA, and her Republican colleagues rejected this version of the bill, opting instead to introduce a version that leaves the loophole unaddressed.
“The Senate’s failure to act on VAWA for an entire year has tragically served as a death sentence for many American women,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “In the year since VAWA landed in the Senate, an estimated 600+ women were shot and killed by intimate partners. This inaction by Senator McConnell and his NRA-allies in the Senate is unforgivable, and every one of those senators running for re-election must be held accountable this November.”
“As more Americans are confined to their homes and phones at domestic violence hotlines ring off the hook, the number of women who live in fear of an abusive boyfriend is rising, and those fears include getting shot because gun lobby allies in the Senate refused to take action to disarm abusive boyfriends.” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Women are five times as likely to be killed by a domestic abuser if a gun is present in the home, and gun sales are skyrocketing during this pandemic, which makes for a potentially deadly combination.”
“Domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to firearms, period,” said Leslie Washington, a survivor of domestic abuse, volunteer with the Missouri chapter Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and member of the Everytown Survivor Network. “My ex-husband abused me for nine years, threatening me with his gun and telling me he was going to kill me. Nobody should have to go through that, regardless of whether they’re married or dating––and that’s why we have to close the boyfriend loophole.”
“The Senate’s refusal to close the boyfriend loophole is deadly, especially when women are just as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses,” said Ruth Glenn, CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and survivor of gun-related domestic abuse. “I know, because years ago, my abuser shot me three times and left me for dead. If the Senate cares about keeping women safe, then it’s past time for them to close the boyfriend loophole for good.”
VAWA is particularly relevant today because experts believe that Coronavirus-mandated isolation could increase the risk of abuse for victims of domestic violence. This problem is already presenting itself across the country:
- In Cincinnati, local advocates report a 30 percent increase in hotline calls.
- A Los Angeles hospital reported difficulty finding a shelter for a domestic abuse victim due to the pandemic.
- The Nashville YWCA reported a 55 percent increase in calls as COVID-19 cases increased in Tennessee earlier this month.
- The Seattle police department reported a 23 percent increase in domestic violence related calls compared to the same time period last year.
- Some helplines in Arizona have reported a 10 percent increase in the number of calls received since social distancing practices began.
- Domestic violence shelters in Virginia are reporting an increase in calls for help.
- A Portland domestic violence resource center saw calls double in the past week.
- The Salt Lake City police department reported a 33 percent increase in calls to report domestic violence.
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 closing the boyfriend 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, and women are just as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses. More information on the link between guns and domestic violence is available here and resources for survivors of domestic abuse can be found here.
The House-passed version of VAWA, which would close the boyfriend and stalker loopholes, has earned broad, bipartisan support. It passed the House one year ago with support from 33 Republican representatives; its Senate companion bill, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), earned the support of every Democrat and Independent in the Senate; and, most notable of all, President Trump’s own Department of Justice reportedly supports closing the boyfriend loophole through VAWA. On the other hand, Sen. Ernst’s stripped-down, NRA-backed version of VAWA (S. 2920) has garnered support from just 13 Republican senators.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, whom Everytown For Gun Safety endorsed last month, wrote and passed the original Violence Against Women Act in 1994––legislation that led to a 64% drop in intimate partner violence between 1993 and 2010. More information about the bipartisan House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 is available here.