June 23, 2021

Wyden, Blumenthal Introduce Expanded Legislation to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors From Gun Violence

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Lori Jackson – Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence.

“The devastating loss Nicolette's family has suffered is one no family should ever have to face,” Wyden said. “Keeping guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers shouldn't be controversial, it's commonsense. No more lives should be taken because of inexcusable inaction against these abusers. It's past time to end the cycle of gun violence and prevent future tragedy.”

“Strengthening protective orders to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers will save lives – and could have saved Lori’s, Nicolette’s and so many others,” said Blumenthal. “When a gun is available, domestic violence is five times more likely to turn deadly for women. Closing this dangerous loophole and supporting local efforts to keep weapons out of the hands of abusers will protect domestic violence survivors.”

The bill introduced this week includes a measure Blumenthal has previously introduced to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to legally obtain weapons. The expanded legislation would also establish a federal grant program to support state and local efforts to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers while they are subject to temporary or emergency restraining orders. The new bill is named for two women who were both shot and killed by their abusive, estranged partners even after securing temporary restraining orders: Lori Jackson, from Oxford, Connecticut; and Nicolette Elias from Portland, Oregon.

“On November 10, 2014, our entire world was fractured forever. Nicolette’s murder was a tragedy that should have been prevented and could have been prevented had her abusive ex-husband’s weapons been removed. My family is not just another statistic,” said Madeleine Garcelon, mother of Nicolette Elias. “Gun violence and domestic abuse impacts real people with real lives, and nearly seven years later, my young granddaughters and entire family are still suffering from the loss of Nicolette. My hope is that Nicolette's story and this bill will ensure commonsense laws to protect against future tragedy.”

Nicolette Elias was a 46-year-old Portland mother of two young daughters who for years sought and secured restraining orders and temporary stalking orders against her estranged and abusive ex-husband. Despite all her attempts to protect herself and her daughters from a man who frequently threatened them and had access to firearms, in 2014, Nicolette was murdered by her former spouse in front of their children with a handgun that he refused to relinquish. He then forced their daughters out of the home, past their mother’s body, and kidnapped them, taking them to his own home. There, later that day, he took his own life, shooting himself in the chest in front of the police.

 “It’s hard to imagine what a family goes through when something like this happens,” said Merry Jackson, Lori Jackson’s mother.  “It never goes away, it’s with you forever. But if you could save another family and kids from losing their mom, it would mean the world to me.”

Lori Jackson was a 32-year-old mother of two who fled her home with her two children and filed for a restraining order to protect her family from her estranged husband. She moved in with her mother in Oxford, Connecticut, and the court granted her a temporary protective order while she waited for a hearing to obtain a permanent restraining order. The day before the hearing was scheduled, Lori's husband shot and killed her and injured her mother Merry Jackson using a gun he legally possessed because a permanent protective order was not yet in place.

“The most dangerous time with an abusive partner is when the survivor takes steps to leave, which steps often include petitioning for an ex parte protective order,” said Ruth Glenn, President & CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “While federal law prohibits certain respondents to final protective orders from possessing firearms, it does not protect them in the critical few days as they are escaping. Federal law also fails to protect survivors from armed dating partners, even though half of intimate partner homicides are committed by dating abusers. The Lori Jackson - Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act closes these loopholes and addresses another key element necessary for the safety of survivors - ensuring that courts require adjudicated abusers to get rid of contraband firearm and that localities have the policies and procedures in place to enforce those court orders.”

Current federal law protects domestic violence survivors from gun violence by preventing their abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm – but only once the court has issued a permanent restraining order. This leaves survivors unprotected exactly when they are in the most danger: when a domestic abuser first learns his or her victim has left and only a temporary restraining order is in place. Further, the current definition of “intimate partner” used to prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm includes spouses, former spouses, people with a child in common, and cohabitants. However, there are many survivors of dating violence who were never married, do not live with their abuser, and have no children.

The Lori Jackson – Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would restrict those under temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm, and would extend protections to domestic violence survivors who have been abused by their dating partners.

The bill would also establish a new grant program to help state and local governments implement policies that keep firearms out of the hands of domestic violence perpetrators while they are subject to a temporary or emergency restraining order. These policies include: requiring a domestic violence abuser to surrender or sell any firearm or ammunition in their possession; revoking their permit or license to purchase, possess or carry a firearm or ammunition while the restraining order is in effect; and requiring that a background check to be performed before any firearm or ammunition is returned to the person subject to the restraining order.

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).


The bill is endorsed by Brady, Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Oregon: Sexual Assault Support Services, Center for Hope and Safety, Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence, and Moms Demand Action.