House Closes the "Boyfriend Loophole," Reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act

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House Closes the "Boyfriend Loophole," Reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act

On Tuesday, the House reinvigorated protections for survivors of domestic abuse by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with a 263-158 vote (33 Republicans crossed the aisle to support this measure, while one Democrat voted against it). VAWA had lapsed in February when it was not included in the spending bill that ended the government shutdown. One of its key purposes was providing funding and grants to organizations addressing domestic abuse.

The legislation passed on Tuesday, expanding the reach of VAWA despite protestations from the National Rifle Association and Republicans. These two groups were more worried about the undercutting of Second Amendment rights than the lives of women slain by their own partners. After all, the murder of women perpetrated by their partners or members of their own family is a phenomena so widespread that many have become virtually numb to it.

VAWA now closes the “boyfriend loophole,” meaning that people who were convicted of stalking or abusing people they were dating but never married to will not be able to purchase firearms. Currently laws only apply these restrictions to spouses or formerly married individuals convicted of abuse or under a restraining order.

The bill, backed by Reps. Karen Bass (D—Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R—Pa.), is a huge step forward for combating domestic violence. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D—Md.) stated during the floor debate, as per The Hill:

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 people every minute—20 people every minute—are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. That is a tragedy and a crisis. One-in-four women experience severe intimate partner physical violence, and one-in-seven have been stalked by an intimate partner to the point at which she felt very fearful, or believed that she or someone close to her would be harmed or killed. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk—hear me—increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.

He added, “That is why we aim to close gun loopholes by expanding the definition of intimate partners to include dating or former dating partners. It is also why this bill has language preventing anybody convicted of a misdemeanor crime of stalking from obtaining a gun.”

It’s sad we have to celebrate victories as small as this, but we are heartened to hear that our lawmakers give a shit about women.