By Bettina Weiss
July 30, 2015
Caption : Champions against domestic violence and gun violence team up to introduce bipartisan legislation to keep guns out of the hands of convicted abusers and stalkers.     

New legislation linking gun violence and domestic violence is inspiring action from politicians on both sides of the aisle. The Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act was introduced last week by Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Bob Dold (R-Ill.) “to protect women who are victims of domestic violence and stalking by closing loopholes that allow abusers and stalkers access to guns.”

The new legislation mirrors previous efforts by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) who has been aiming to keep guns out of the hands of people who have been convicted of stalking and found to be abusive dating partners. In 2014, Sen. Klobuchar and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013 which did not leave the judiciary committee.

The Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act closes what is referred to as “the boyfriend loophole,” which would include “convicted abusers of current or former ‘dating partners’ among those who are prohibited from owning guns under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act,” according to The Trace. By adding this new classification, leaders are casting a wider net in hopes of preventing domestic violence. In addition, this bill would prohibit anyone convicted of stalking from owning a gun.

Bloomberg reports that both Rep. Dingell and Sen. Klobuchar have a personal connection to domestic violence. As a former prosecutor, Sen. Klobuchar was responsible for the establishment of some of the first domestic violence service centers in the United States, while Rep. Dingell was raised in a household where domestic violence and access to guns was all too familiar. “I understand what a gun in the wrong hands can do and the fear and the anxiety that you live with for a lifetime,” she said. 

A study conducted by the Department of Justice found that teens who had been exposed to firearms violence reported committing more serious acts of violence than teens who had not been exposed. This finding disproportionately affected teens of color. Research published by the American Journal of Public Health found that more than half of women murdered with guns are killed by family members or intimate partners, and the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent. Legislation that aims to lessen the amount of guns available in households would contribute to both of these groups.

Even though bipartisan support is rare, the Detroit Free Press reports that even with support across the aisle, “the legislation faces a difficult path forward in the U.S. House, which has shown little inclination in recent years to toughen gun control laws.” However, the stagnant nature of Congress does not follow the state-wide move to pass gun laws across the country.

According to a press release about the new legislation from Rep. Dingell’s office about the bill, in 2014, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin enacted laws to protect domestic violence victims, and in 2015, leaders in Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont and Washington have also passed similar legislation to protect women and families from abusers with guns.

Only time will tell if linking domestic violence with gun violence can push the issue to a vote on the federal level. The bipartisan nature of combining domestic violence and gun violence gives this bill more potential than traditional gun violence legislation and demonstrates how democrats and republicans can find common ground in the debate.

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