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Shameful: Senate Republicans Cut Life-Saving Provisions To Disarm Domestic Abusers From VAWA Reauthorization

November 20, 2019

Senate Republican-Introduced Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act Removes Provisions to Disarm Domestic Abusers That Were Included in Bipartisan House-Passed VAWA Reauthorization Bill

NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown, denounced Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Senate Republicans for not including life-saving measures to disarm abusive dating partners and stalkers in the Republican version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) they introduced today. Specifically, their bill does not include a provision that would close the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows dating partners to purchase or possess firearms even after a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or while under a final restraining order. The House version of VAWA reauthorization, which passed with bipartisan support and included gun safety provisions, has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), with the cosponsorship of every Senate Democrat and Independent.

“Once again, Senate Republicans were given a chance to pass bipartisan, common-sense measures to keep guns out of dangerous hands — and once again, they bowed to the NRA and did nothing to address a clear and present danger to the American people, especially American women,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “But the people are paying attention, and in 2020 NRA-aligned lawmakers can expect to meet the same fate as Virginia politicians who put the gun lobby first: unemployment.”

“This bill makes it abundantly clear whose side these Republican Senators are on. They had a responsibility to fight for women’s safety. Now we’ll fight to get them out of office,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “American women are 21 times more likely to die by gun homicide than women in any other high-income country because in America, too many of our federal lawmakers refuse to protect us.”

“Dozens of Iowa women have been killed as a result of the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ and yet Senate Republicans today are siding with the NRA by refusing to close the deadly loophole,” said Connie Simmons, a volunteer with the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action and member of the Everytown Survivor Network, whose niece, Michelle, was shot and killed by her estranged husband. “The Violence Against Women Act is essential to creating safer communities for women, but without the provisions to disarm domestic abusers, far too many Iowa women will still be in danger of being killed by their dating partners — simply because they are unmarried. It is unconscionable Senate Republicans would leave out life-saving provisions to help Iowa women seeking protection from their domestic abusers.”

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), the lead sponsor of the Republican version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, announced earlier this month that Senate Republicans would not advance the bipartisan House-passed bill. In Iowa, there is still an open “boyfriend loophole,” even though unmarried Iowans are at far greater risk than their married counterparts (fact sheet here):

  • From 2013 to 2017, 37 Iowa women were killed by intimate partners, and 65 percent of these homicides were committed by dating partners, making Iowa women nearly twice as likely to be killed by a dating partner than by a current or former spouse.
  • Among all aggravated assaults in Iowa, twice as many incidents were committed by a boyfriend or a girlfriend, compared with assaults committed by a current or former spouse.

Thirty-three Republicans voted for the House-passed version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, H.R. 1585, despite the NRA scoring against it and urging lawmakers to vote ‘NO.’ H.R. 1585 included life-saving gun safety provisions to disarm domestic abusers, including:

  • H.R. 1585 would protect women from abusive dating partners by ensuring that their abusers are prohibited from possessing guns under federal law—using the definition of “dating partner” already contained in the Violence Against Women Act. Current federal law already prohibits gun possession by people convicted of or under a restraining order for abusing their spouses, but generally does not cover abuse between dating partners. This gap in the law has become 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.
  • H.R. 1585 would also protect women from domestic abusers by ensuring the FBI informs state law enforcement when domestic abusers fail a background check and are stopped from purchasing a firearm. This notice gives state law enforcement an opportunity to investigate the potential crime and intervene before the abuser can obtain a firearm elsewhere or do further harm.

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