Skip to content

Everytown, Moms Demand Action Denounce Sen. Joni Ernst for Refusing to Take Up House-passed Violence Against Women Act With Life-Saving Gun Safety Provisions


In Senate Floor Speech, Sen. Joni Ernst Caved to NRA, Said Senate Republicans Would Not Move Forward on House-Passed Version of VAWA With Provisions to Disarm Domestic Abusers

NRA Spent More Than $3 Million to Elect Joni Ernst in 2014

NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown, denounced Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), the lead Republican negotiator for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, after she announced in a floor speech that Senate Republicans would not advance the bipartisan House-passed version of the bill, which included life-saving measures to disarm abusive dating partners and stalkers. Specifically, the legislation would have closed the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows dating partners to keep firearms after an assault conviction or while under a restraining order.

“Dozens of Iowa women have been killed as a result of the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ and yet Senator Ernst would rather curry favor with the NRA than protect Iowa women,” 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. “It is unconscionable that Senator Ernst would side with the gun lobby against Iowa women seeking protection from their domestic abusers.”

“Let’s be blunt: Senator Ernst is caving to the NRA by refusing to include common-sense measures to keep guns away from domestic abusers as part of VAWA reauthorization,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “In 2020, NRA-aligned lawmakers should expect to meet the same fate as Virginia politicians who put the gun lobby ahead of public safety: they were thrown out of office and are now looking for new jobs.”

“If Senator Ernst’s constituents can’t trust her to keep guns away from domestic abusers, she shouldn’t get to keep her seat in the Senate,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Women make up the majority of voters and we vote for gun safety — regardless of political party. Lawmakers who prioritize the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda over our safety will suffer the consequences at the ballot box.”

Senator Ernst’s Iowa continues to have 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.