When the bipartisan group of Senators reached a compromise package to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the deal removed a key provision in the legislation - the so called “boyfriend loophole.” Even though abused women are 5 times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser has access to a gun, the boyfriend loophole in federal gun safety laws allow abusers to readily access firearms.
Federal law does not consider an assault domestic violence if the abuser and victim were in a dating relationship without living together or having a child together. This loophole leaves thousands of abusers able to legally purchase guns to use against their victims. Also, although it is well known that stalking is a reliable predictor of future violent behavior, federal law does not consider misdemeanor stalking a serious enough crime to limit an abuser’s access to guns. Furthermore, federal law does nothing to restrict an abuser’s access to guns during the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence, the period when a victim has left their abuser and filed for a Temporary Restraining Order. Until the restraining order is permanent, violent abusers can easily buy and use a firearm.
In American today, women just are as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses. Lawmakers have proposed stand alone legislation (H.R. 1906/S.527) to close the loopholes left out of the VAWA and remove guns from the hands of abusers. Congress must act to prevent perpetrators of domestic abuse from accessing deadly firearms.