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Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act


Last Updated: 4.28.2021


The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 contains life-saving provisions that will keep firearms away from dangerous domestic abusers and provide law enforcement important tools to intervene when domestic abusers are trying to illegally obtain firearms. The bill’s firearm provisions are common sense provisions that close loopholes in federal law and block domestic abusers from accessing guns. These gun safety policies have previously been introduced in bipartisan standalone bills and enjoy broad public support.

Guns in the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers have deadly results.

  • Two-thirds of female victims of intimate partner homicide in the US are killed with a gun, this translates to hundreds of women shot and killed by intimate partners every year.1Everytown Research analysis of CDC, National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), 2020. Analysis includes firearm homicides involving an intimate partner and women 18 years and older.
  • Guns are also used with alarming frequency by abusers to injure victims or attempt to do so—nearly 1 million women in the US alive today have had a gun used against them by an intimate partner.2Everytown Research analysis of the National Violence Against Women Survey (Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes, “Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” November 2000, and US Census 2020.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed by her abusive partner.3Campbell, J. C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J. et al. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: Results from a multisite case control study. American journal of public health, 93(7), 1089-1097.
  • More than 90 percent of voters want Congress to strengthen “laws that help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers,” including 88 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of gun owning households.4Oct. 2018 poll available at

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 closes the dating partner loophole.

  • Federal law 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.518 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(32). The law does cover abusers who share a child in common with their victims, or have cohabited with their victims.
  • 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.6Alexia Cooper and Erica L. Smith, Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Nov. 2011), available at; Everytown for Gun Safety analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2000-2012.
  • The bill 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.
  • At a July 2014 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, all five witnesses expressed support for provisions of S. 1290, The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013, which contained this same language.
    • In the words of Racine County (WI) Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, who testified at the hearing, “dangerous boyfriends can be just as scary as dangerous husbands; they hit just as hard and they fire their guns with the same deadly force.”

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 closes the stalker loophole.

  • Current law prohibits stalkers convicted of felony offenses from gun possession, but does not prohibit misdemeanor stalking offenders, even though stalking is also a predictor of intimate partner homicide.718 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
  • In fact, a study of intimate partner homicides and attempted homicides involving female victims in 10 major U.S. cities found that 76 percent of those murders and 85 percent of attempted murders of women were preceded by at least one incident of stalking in the year before the attack.8Judith MacFarlane, Jacquelyn Campbell, et. al., Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide, 3 Homicide Studies No. 4, 300-16 (Nov. 1999).
    • At the 2014 Senate hearing, Sheriff Schmaling said, “When we look at stalking, in looking at statistics, from 2005-2013, the state of Wisconsin suffered 29 DV homicides. Of those 29, all of them were preceded by incidents of stalking behavior.”
  • The bill would protect women from stalkers by ensuring that those convicted of stalking offenses are prohibited from possessing guns under federal law.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 alerts law enforcement when domestic abusers try to buy guns.

  • The bill would protect women from domestic abusers by ensuring 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 intervene before the abuser can obtain a firearm or do further harm.
  • Three in 10 people who try to buy guns illegally and are denied due to a criminal conviction or indictment are re-arrested within the next five years.9James Tien et al., Structured Decisions Corporation, Recidivism of Denied Prospective Firearm Purchases, May 2008, at
  • From November 1998 through February 2021, the FBI reported it denied nearly 168,000 gun sales to domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanor crimes and more than 68,000 sales to people subject to a domestic violence restraining order.10FBI release on Federal Denials available at
  • In March 2019, bipartisan members of the House and Senate introduced companion bills that would notify state law enforcement each time a person who is not allowed to have guns tries to buy a firearm and fails the background check,11See press release issued about introduction by Senators Coons (D-DE) and Toomey (R-PA) available at and press release about introduction by Representatives Quigley (D-IL-05), Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Swalwell (D-CA-15) and Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) available at and the fiscal year 2021 appropriation bill for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies directed the Department of Justice to alert state and local law enforcement when a prohibited purchaser fails a background check.

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