The House Takes a Step towards Banning Guns for Domestic Abusers

July 27, 2015
Last week, Congress moved closer to passing legislation preventing domestic abusers and stalkers from purchasing or possessing guns, as Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) and Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL-10) introduced the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act (H.R. 3130). The bipartisan bill would close a loophole in federal law that allows some perpetrators of domestic violence to access firearms. Crucially, it would expand the definition of “intimate partners” to the definition used in the 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: someone who has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the abuser. The bill also adds convicted stalkers to the list of those prohibited from purchasing and possessing guns. Currently, dating partners are responsible for nearly half of intimate partner homicides, but victims have no legal avenue to protect themselves from dating partners with guns unless they are married, living together or have a child together. The Dingell-Dold bill would provide much-needd legal protection for women and men who experienced domestic abuse in more casual relationships. The bill’s ban on convicted stalkers having guns provides an extra layer of protection for domestic violence victims, who are left in a lethal environment when their abusers are allowed to keep or buy guns. Indeed, stalking goes hand-in-hand with gun violence: we know that 76% of murdered domestic violence victims are first stalked by their killer. The Dingell-Dold bill came out in the same week as a map of the 75 mass shootings that have taken place since Newtown in the United States, created by the Stanford Geospatial Center and published by Vox. The map was incredibly sobering to explore, a reminder of how broadly experienced and how common gun violence can be in this country. At the same time, it was striking to see how many of the mass shootings coincided with domestic incidents and stalking, from the Isla Vista massacre that garnered national attention, to the household shooting in Queens this past January. When we think of the Talmudic teaching, “he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe” (Mishnah Sandhedrin 4:5), we remember that the decisions we make in our communities and in our country—how seriously we treat incidences of domestic violence and stalking, and how easy it can be for perpetrators to access lethal weapons—can have a profound impact on whether lives are taken or saved. The Dingell-Dold bill is a companion to Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (S. 1520), which was introduced in the last Congress and reintroduced earlier this year. With the legislation now in both houses of Congress and with the support of members of both parties, there’s a better chance that this bill will start to get the attention it deserves. Contact your Members of Congress and urge them to support the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act today!

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