Editorial: Closing the boyfriend loophole could save partners of abusers


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National Rifle Association logo.

The National Rifle Association isn’t new to what some would call unpopular opinions. Its most recent dalliance with controversy comes from its opposition to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was passed in 1994 to help survivors of sexual violence.

The bill expired in February, and lawmakers are looking to add new provisions to the reauthorization bill that would expand protections for gay, bisexual and transgender people that were added to VAWA in 2013. But what the NRA opposes is the provision that would make it easier for law enforcement to take away the guns of domestic abusers. This stance is anti-woman and overlooks the dangers people face from intimate partners who own guns and have shown tendencies toward violent, abusive or stalker-like behaviors.

Current federal law allows the confiscation of firearms from those who have been convicted of domestic abuse if they are or were married to the victim, live with the victim, have a child with the victim or are the parent or guardian of the victim. The reauthorization bill would close the boyfriend loophole by extending the law to apply to those convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking an intimate partner who is not a spouse or relative.

The NRA has reaffirmed its stance against domestic violence while simultaneously demonstrating how hypocritical it is on the issue.

“The NRA opposes domestic violence and all violent crime, and spends millions of dollars teaching countless Americans how not to be a victim and how to safely use firearms for self-defense,” spokesperson Jennifer Baker told the National Journal. “It is a shame that some in the gun-control community treat the severity of domestic violence so trivially that they are willing to use it as a tool to advance a political agenda.”

There are several striking things about this statement. First, the organization thinks it can teach someone how to not be a victim, which is a form of victim-blaming that completely discredits its argument. Second, it’s completely hypocritical to accuse others of using domestic violence as a political tool — the NRA plans to keep track of and score how lawmakers vote on the reauthorization bill so it knows whether it should support or attack members of Congress when they’re up for re-election.

The NRA is right about one thing though, and that’s the severity of domestic violence — especially when guns are added to the situation. A 2017 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about half of female homicide victims are killed by intimate partners. The National Center for Victims of Crime found that about three-quarters of those killed by intimate partners were stalked by their partners. And according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.

Since firearms do pose a measurable threat to those who face domestic violence, it makes sense to limit the perpetrators’ access to those firearms. This isn’t the partisan issue the NRA and many Republican members of Congress are making it out to be. Closing the boyfriend loophole could help make women and victims of abuse safer, and VAWA should be reauthorized immediately.