August 06, 2020

Wyden Introduces Legislation to Close Dangerous Loophole to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors

Wyden pushes to close the “boyfriend loophole” nationwide as gun sales and domestic violence surging amid pandemic

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today joined U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and colleagues to introduce legislation to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence by closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers to legally obtain weapons.

In 2018, Oregon closed the “boyfriend loophole” by expanding the definition of intimate partner to include people who weren’t married, didn’t share children or hadn’t lived together. Today's legislation would expand the "boyfriend loophole" nationwide.

“With this bill, the entire nation could join Oregon in closing the ‘boyfriend loophole’ and protecting domestic abuse survivors from gun violence at the hands of their abusers,” said Wyden. “The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is a common sense step to ensure public safety and prevent violence against vulnerable people.”

The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would close dangerous loopholes in federal law, thereby protecting millions of Americans. 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.

This bill 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. This bill’s provisions are a component of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act, landmark legislation designed to support and protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, which continues to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is named in memory of Lori Jackson, an Oxford, Connecticut mother of two who was shot and killed by her estranged husband, who had legally obtained a handgun even though he was subject to a temporary restraining order.

“You don’t realize what a family goes through when something like this happens. It doesn’t go away, it’s with you forever," said Merry Jackson, Lori Jackson’s mother. "But if you could save another family, a couple of kids, from not losing their mom, it would mean the world to me.”

Wyden joined U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to introduce this bill, alongside Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Chris Coons, D-Del., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

The legislation is supported by a number of advocacy and support groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV).

“As a survivor of domestic violence and gun violence, I can personally attest to the role that firearms play in exerting and maintaining power and control over a survivor,” said National Coalition Against Domestic Violence CEO Ruth M. Glenn. "I was fortunate; I survived. Too many others do not.”

“Amid the dangerous surge in gun sales during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a safety warning on its website for the victims of domestic violence,” said Newtown Action Alliance Chairwoman Po Murray. “We agree with the DOJ that increased stress and financial uncertainty during the pandemic coupled with more guns in the homes will result in increased risk for the domestic violence victims. In America, domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when the abusers have access to guns. Congress must pass Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act now to keep guns out of the hands of abusers to save lives, particularly during this prolonged unprecedented pandemic.”

“We know that domestic violence homicide is both predictable and therefore, preventable,” said CCADV CEO Karen Jarmoc. “Over the past decade, firearms continue to be the most predominant use of force to commence a domestic violence murder here in Connecticut. The opportunity to remove firearms from an abusive partner when a victim is seeking to leave the relationship is really critical.”

The full bill text is here and the one-page summary is here.