Millions of Americans report experiencing domestic violence each year, and access to firearms compounds the threat. When an abusive partner has access to a gun, a domestic violence victim is five times more likely to be killed. Under federal law, convicted domestic abusers are prohibited from owning guns only if they were married to, lived with, or had a child with the victim. If an abuser does not meet any of those criteria, the abuser can legally procure a gun. This is called the “boyfriend loophole.”
In June 2022, with passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, Congress partially closed the boyfriend loophole and extended greater protections to victims of dating violence by adding certain dating relationships to the definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Congress must finish the job and protect all victims of dating violence by prohibiting dating abusers subject to domestic violence protective orders from accessing firearms.
Urge Congress to support the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (H.R. 1906/S. 527 in the 117th Congress) to close the deadly “boyfriend loophole” and help keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers and stalkers.
Every month, an average of 57 women are murdered by an intimate partner using a gun. 91 percent of women are murdered by a man they know and 62 percent of those women who knew their murderer were wives or other intimate acquaintances. Over 600 American women are shot to death by current or former intimate partners every year. This means that one roughly woman is murdered every 14 hours. In fact, firearms are used to commit over half of all intimate partner homicides in the U.S. Further, an analysis of 749 mass shootings in the U.S. from 2014 to 2019 found that about 60 percent were either domestic violence attacks or committed by men with histories of domestic violence.
The statistics become only more disturbing when you consider race, as the intersection of guns and domestic violence has a disproportionate impact on Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic women. In 2019, Black women were murdered by men at a rate of 2.34 per 100,000, more than twice the rate of white women murdered by men. Over 84 percent of Indigenous women and girls experience violence in their lifetimes, and 38.8 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women who are murdered by an intimate partner were killed by firearm. In March of 2021, a gunman in Atlanta murdered six Asian women—this massacre speaks to the misogynistic nature of violence specifically perpetrated against Asian women and girls.
While we are pleased that Congress finally passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, a critical bill that improves criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States, the reauthorization did not close the “boyfriend loophole.”
Further, in June 2022, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, extending greater protections to victims of dating violence by adding certain dating relationships to the definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Domestic violence misdemeanants who are convicted after June 25, 2022 of domestic violence against someone with whom they have a current or had a recent former dating relationship are prohibited from possessing, receiving, shipping, or transporting firearms or ammunition for five years. After five years, first-time misdemeanants automatically have their federal firearms access restored if they have not been convicted of another misdemeanor involving physical force or a threat with a deadly weapon in the interim. Closing the loophole for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was an important first step, but this law still leaves guns in the hands of dating abusers who have been found by a court to pose an immediate danger to their victims.
The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2021 (H.R. 1906/S. 527 in the 117th Congress) will close the boyfriend loophole and prevent people who have abused dating partners from buying or owning firearms and stop convicted stalkers from possessing a gun.
To protect survivors’ lives, ensure their safety, and prevent any more pain and trauma in our communities, it is imperative that Congress takes federal action to fully close the boyfriend loophole and prevents people convicted of domestic violence from accessing firearms.
Jewish tradition emphasizes the sanctity and eternal value of human life. The Talmud teaches that “One who takes a life, it is though they have destroyed the universe. And one who saves a life, it is as though they have saved the universe” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). The dehumanization of individuals and the carelessness with which human life is taken during incidents of gun violence stand in direct violation of these affirmations of our tradition. We are called to take action to prevent the loss of lives and end gun violence.
Further, the Mishnah teaches, “One who injures another person is liable on five counts (that is, responsible for paying for five factors): for the injury itself, for pain, for healing, for loss of time, and for embarrassment” (Bava Kamma 8:1). This multidimensional understanding of personal injury addresses the pervasive nature of domestic abuse, which can include physical and sexual violence, and the way that these acts of violence have repercussions far greater than the acts themselves, such as lifelong trauma for survivors.
For more information
For more information on gun violence prevention, visit our Gun Violence Prevention page and contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Shayna Han at email@example.com, and for more information on the work of WRJ and women’s issues, go to wrj.org or contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Lillie Heyman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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