When we think about gun violence, our minds automatically go to
the horrific mass shootings in Buffalo, Parkland, Sandy Hook,
Uvalde and countless other locations. But, as it turns out, a man
killing his estranged partner more accurately represents the
country’s current crisis. The CDC has found that more than half
of all female homicides in the U.S. between 2003 and 2014 have been
related to domestic violence and that the most common weapon used
is a gun.
I genuinely applaud the work currently underway, spearheaded by
senators Chris Murphy and John Cornyn including provisions for
enhanced background checks for prospective gun purchasers under the
age of 21; allowing for law enforcement to examine juvenile and
mental health records; federal money for states with red flag laws
allowing authorities to temporarily seize firearms from people
deemed to be dangerous; toughening of laws to stop gun trafficking;
and federal money to shore up mental health resources in
communities and schools, as well as for school security. However, I
sincerely hope that a measure aimed at correcting the
“boyfriend loophole” will make it over the finish
Under federal law, anyone who is convicted of misdemeanor
domestic violence or who is subject to a final protective order is
prohibited from owning or purchasing guns. This ban, however, only
applies to spouses—those who share a child—and
co-habitants, not dating partners. Closing this “boyfriend
loophole” would make a real difference.
Some of the most thoughtful proposals aim to expand the reach of
the Lautenberg Amendment to the Federal Gun Control Act to dating
partners instead of just spouses, co-habitants, and fellow parents,
are driven by the recognition that “[d]angerous boyfriends can
be just as scary as dangerous husbands,” and “they hit
just as hard and they fire their guns with the same deadly
Disagreement over the boyfriend loophole was at the center of a
debate around the 1994 Violence against Women Act, and for years as
other improvements were made, carve-outs for dating partners
remained. The National Rifle Association has fought against
attempts to close that loophole during reauthorization debates in
1996 and 2018. The time has come finally to address this issue.
The presence of guns in domestic violence situations has been
well documented and is far more common that people think. Based on
an analysis of data from the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide
Reports for the years 1990 to 2016, one professor found that nearly
one in three homicides in the U.S. are domestic homicides and one
in six specifically involve the killing of an intimate partner.
Introducing firearms into domestic conflicts absolutely enhances
the risk that an intimate partner will be killed. According to the
Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, a woman is five
times more likely to be murdered when her abuser has access to a
gun. Research from Susan B. Sorenson, professor of social policy at
the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that about half the
intimate partner homicides in the United States are perpetrated by
an unmarried partner.
“Marriage and dating patterns have changed substantially
such that fewer people meet the criteria set out by Congress in the
1990s,” Sorensen said. “Closing the ‘boyfriend
loophole’ keeps the focus where it belongs — on the bad
behavior rather than on the nature of the relationship between the
two parties.” Abuse by those who use guns against their
partners outside the existing narrow categories is an immense
problem largely ignored when it comes to the issue of gun violence,
she added. “Closing this loophole will make women
There was a time, decades ago, when domestic homicides were
overwhelmingly committed by spouses, but that is no longer true.
According to Bureau of Justice statistics, such killings are
actually now more commonly committed by non-married partners.
Additionally, stalking is a crime often perpetrated by boyfriends
and therefore will not automatically lead to a federal prohibition
on buying a gun. According to the National Institute of Justice,
fully 90 percent of victims of murder or attempted murder by a
partner had previously been stalked.
Plugging this hole will also make others safer because it is not
uncommon for the death toll to include people other than the
targeted victim, such as friends, neighbors, bystanders and police
officers. In fact, another study indicates that in at least 53
percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2020 (defined as any
incident in which four or more people are shot and killed,
excluding the shooter), the perpetrator shot an intimate partner or
family member during their attack.
In another study, it was determined that in 68 percent of mass
shootings between 2014 and 2019, the shooter either murdered a
family member or a dating partner or had a history of domestic
violence. An earlier study found a link to domestic or family
violence in more than half of mass shootings from
2009-2016—and in thousands more cases that don’t make
international headlines—revealing an increased likelihood
that a woman will be killed. A woman doesn’t have to have been
married to an abuser, have a child with him or live with him for
her life to be at risk. All it takes is a gun.
Closing this loophole will not totally address the problem faced
by the millions of women in the United States who have been
threatened by a romantic partner with a gun, pistol-whipped, shot
at, or actually shot by their partners. And it certainly has its
caveats, addressing only those who have been convicted, not those
whose domestic violence cases do not reach that stage.
Moreover, if there are not universal background checks, the
abusive partners will still be able to visit a gun show or arrange
a private sale, in which their prior convictions would not prevent
obtaining a gun. But as Voltaire pointed out, we should not let the
perfect be the enemy of the good.
Copyright 2022. ALM Global, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Originally published here.
Originally published by the Connecticut Law Tribune |
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