The House passed legislation on Tuesday reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides protections for survivors of domestic violence, ignoring staunch objections from the National Rifle Association and Republicans who say it will restrict gun rights by closing a loophole that allowed people convicted of stalking or abusing dating partners to buy a gun.
Thirty-three Republicans bucked party leadership to vote for the bill backed by Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the only GOP lawmaker to co-sponsor it.
Only one Democrat voted against the measure, which passed 263-158.
Congress had allowed VAWA to lapse in February when it was omitted from a massive spending bill ending a partial government shutdown.
VAWA’s new language expands current firearm purchase restrictions to include dating partners who were never legally married, eliminating the so-called boyfriend loophole. Current law forbids gun purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order.
“According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 people every minute — 20 people every minute — are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. That is a tragedy and a crisis. One in 4 women experience severe intimate partner physical violence, and 1 in 7 have been stalked by an intimate partner to the point at which she felt very fearful, or believed that she or someone close to her would be harmed or killed. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk — hear me — increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the floor during debate.
“That is why we aim to close gun loopholes by expanding the definition of intimate partners to include dating or former dating partners. It is also why this bill has language preventing anybody convicted of a misdemeanor crime of stalking from obtaining a gun.”