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Senator Rubio Caves to NRA on VAWA, Opposes DOJ on Boyfriend Loophole. What will Senator Scott do?

December 12, 2019

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has caved to NRA pressure, deciding to support a version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) that does not include life-saving measures to disarm abusive dating partners and stalkers instead of a bipartisan House-passed version that does. Specifically, the version of VAWA he supports, S. 2920, does not include a provision to 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. The bipartisan House-passed VAWA reauthorization, introduced with broad support in the Senate, would close the deadly loophole.  

A recent Daily Beast report showed that Senator Rubio’s decision contradicts President Trump’s own Department of Justice, which supports closing the boyfriend loophole through VAWA (emphasis added): 

“In June, the DOJ sent nearly 40 pages of comments on the House bill to members of Congress… the DOJ said it supported the inclusion of dating partners as possible domestic violence perpetrators. The change, they wrote, would extend federal firearms protections “to victims whose current or former dating partners have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses.” 

Closing the boyfriend loophole would be a landmark step toward saving women’s lives in Florida. As the Daily Beast notes, “women are five times more likely to be murdered if their abuser has a gun,” and women are now just as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses. In Senator Rubio’s home state of Florida alone, 213 women were fatally shot by intimate partners between 2013 and 2017. 

The two competing versions of VAWA now await a vote in the Senate, but it remains to be seen how Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) will respond. Unlike Senator Rubio, Senator Scott has thus far not weighed in on VAWA, leaving the door open for him to support either S. 2920 or the House-passed version that earned support from 33 Republican representatives––including a majority of all representatives from Florida. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced the bipartisan House-passed version with the support of every Democrat and Independent in the Senate, while S. 2920 has only garnered support from 11 Republican senators

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