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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.

  • Over half of female victims of intimate partner homicide in the US are killed with a gun,1Followed by female intimate partner homicide with a knife, hands/feet, asphyxiation, unknown, and fire. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), 2013-2017. While the FBI SHR does not include data from Florida for the years 2013 to 2017, Everytown for Gun Safety obtained data directly from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and included the reported homicides in this analysis. Whereas SHR includes both current and former spouses in its relationship designations, FDLE does not include former spouses. As a result, Florida’s intimate partner violence data includes only current spouses. which translates to at least 57 women shot and killed by an intimate partner in an average month in the US.2Supplementary Homicide Reports, 1976-2019. Kaplan, Jacob concatenated files as posted on: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2021-01-16. https://doi. org/10.3886/E100699V10.
  • 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 reported being shot or shot at by an intimate partner.3Sorenson SB, Schut RA. Nonfatal gun use in intimate partner violence: a systematic review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2018;19(4):431-442.
  • 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.4Campbell, 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.5Oct. 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.618 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.7Alexia 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.818 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.9Judith 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.10James 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.11FBI 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,12See 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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