July 22, 2015 – Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and national domestic violence prevention advocates today applauded the introduction of new bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives that protects victims of domestic violence and stalking by helping keep guns out of the hands of abusers and convicted stalkers.
Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Republican Congressman Robert Dold of Illinois announced the new proposal, the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act, at an event today hosted by Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by Congresswoman Giffords and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.
“I applaud Congresswoman Dingell and Congressman Dold for doing the responsible thing and offering a commonsense, bipartisan solution that would help protect vulnerable women and their families. In so many communities around our country, guns and domestic violence are a deadly, tragic mix. There is no doubt: dangerous people with guns are a threat to women, and the loopholes in our laws are one reason we have such a problem in our country with gun violence against women,” said Congresswoman Giffords. “By closing the loopholes that let abusers and stalkers get guns, this law would make our country a safer place to live – and it would save lives. I am grateful to Congresswoman Dingell and Congressman Dold for standing up for common sense, and I hope their colleagues in Congress join them in supporting this badly needed legislation.”
The legislation makes two small commonsense changes to federal law to address existing loopholes that make it easy for perpetrators of dating violence and those convicted of misdemeanor stalking to legally access guns. The bill would:
Close the Loophole That Lets Perpetrators of Dating Violence Access Guns: Current federal law prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses from accessing firearms, including individuals who are a current or former spouse, parent, parent of a child in common, current or former cohabitant, or a personal similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim. But federal law does not include perpetrators who abused current or former dating partners. With more women unmarried in non-cohabitating dating relationships, this gap leaves a significant number of abusers free to access firearms.
Close the Loophole That Lets Some Convicted Stalkers Access Guns: Under current federal law, individuals convicted of felony stalking offenses are prohibited from accessing guns. But individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking offenses are not prohibited. With many first-time felony offenses plead down to misdemeanor charges, and with stalking a strong precursor to escalating violence, the legislation closes this gap in federal law, so that all individuals convicted of stalking offenses are prohibited from accessing firearms.
“Current federal law leaves dangerous gaps for victims of dating and stalking. NNEDV applauds Rep. Dingell and Rep. Dold for their introduction of the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act, closing the federal loophole for these types of abusers. The Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act is one more step to prevent domestic violence homicides,” said Kim Gandy, President & CEO, the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
“In a recent survey conducted by The Hotline, 22 percent of the participants said their abusive partner had threatened to use a firearm and 67 percent believed their partner was capable of killing them,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “By closing federal loopholes that let perpetrators of dating abuse access firearms, the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act proposed by Rep. Dingell and Rep. Dold is another step in protecting victims and making them feel safe.”
“Women and children are dying everyday in the United States because abusers are allowed access to guns. We must close the legal loopholes that allow this to happen. It’s encouraging to see bipartisan support for the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act – the YWCA is committed to working to see this critical legislation passed this session,”said Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D. CEO of the YWCA USA.
Last July, the Senate Judiciary Committee, then chaired by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, held the first-ever Senate hearing on the nexus of domestic abuse and gun violence against women.
This fall, Congresswoman Giffords traveled on a nine-state, nine-day national tour highlighting the need for stronger state and federal laws that protect women and families from gun violence and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Since 2008, states have enacted over 30 new laws addressing the nexus of access to guns and domestic violence. In 2014 alone, six states – two of them with Republican controlled-legislatures – enacted laws to protect domestic violence victims: Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin.
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.
BACKGROUND ON THE NEXUS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING PARTNER ABUSE, STALKING, AND ACCESS TO FIREARMS
Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries, and more than half of all murders of America’s women are committed with a gun. [Centers for Disease Control, 2012]
Domestic violence assaults involving a gun are twelve times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force. [Journal of the American Medical Association, 1992]
In 2011, nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners. [Violence Policy Center, 2013]
More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011]
48.6 percent of all intimate partner homicides were committed by a dating partner. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011]
66 percent of female stalking victims were stalked by a current or former intimate partner. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009]
One study of female murder victims in 10 cities found that 76 percent of women murdered and 85 percent who survived a murder attempt by a current or former intimate partner experienced stalking in the year preceding the murder. [Homicide Studies, 1999]