Republican Senators have argued that addressing the boyfriend loophole in the pending reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would be too political to pass the Senate, but a new Daily Beast report shows President Trump’s own Department of Justice supports the provision.
The boyfriend loophole is 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. Republican Senators recently rejected a bipartisan House-passed version of VAWA that would have closed the loophole, opting instead to introduce a version of the bill that leaves the loophole unaddressed.
The Daily Beast’s investigative piece by Emily Shugerman, which can be read in full here, reports that the DOJ favored closing the loophole in comments on the House bill sent to members of Congress in June:
“[D]ocuments obtained by The Daily Beast show that the Department of Justice—which has been criticized by advocates as being too soft on gun control—is in favor of closing the loophole.
“In June, the DOJ sent nearly 40 pages of comments on the House bill to members of Congress. While the comments were largely negative—the department wrote that it ‘opposes’ the vast majority of the proposed amendments—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.’” (emphasis added)
This report comes after Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) argued that the bipartisan House-passed version of VAWA, which would close the boyfriend loophole, is “full of political talking points” and “overly broad.” She then introduced the version of VAWA that leaves this critical loophole open after Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the House-passed version with the support of every Democrat and Independent in the Senate.
Closing the boyfriend loophole would be a landmark step towards saving women’s lives in America. As the Daily Beast notes, “women are five times more likely to be murdered if their abuser has a gun.” And in Senator Ernst’s home state of Iowa alone, 37 Iowa women were killed by intimate partners from 2013 to 2017; 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.
More information about the bipartisan House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 is available here. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to request an interview with a policy expert.