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Victory for the Safety of Women: U.S. House Passes the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019

Today, the House Voted 263-158 in Favor of H.R. 1585, Bipartisan Legislation That Includes Life-Saving Provisions to Disarm Domestic Abusers and Provide Law Enforcement Important Tools to Intervene When Domestic Abusers Try to Illegally Obtain Guns

WASHINGTON– Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, released the following statements as the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. The legislation passed 263-158, with support from 33 Republican representatives.

“I’m so grateful to the bipartisan legislators who led the fight to pass this critical legislation,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “We didn’t elect NRA lobbyists to write our nation’s gun laws or to protect marginalized and vulnerable women. We elected Congress to do that, and thanks to the most diverse class of representatives in our nation’s history, they did.”

“Back in the day, the NRA might have succeeded in pushing lawmakers to put gun lobby priorities ahead of the safety of American women — but those days are ending,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Thanks to Representatives Bass and Fitzpatrick for leading this bipartisan push to make it harder for abusers to get armed, and easier for law enforcement to protect victims.”

“It’s been nine years since my husband tried to kill me with a gun, before turning the gun on himself and ending his life,” said Lisette Johnson, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network who was shot multiple times by her husband in their home on October 4, 2009. The attack came shortly after Lisette made the decision to separate from her husband due to years of emotional and psychological abuse. “My husband tried to kill me because he had easy access to a gun. If he hadn’t had a gun, I don’t believe he would have tried to kill me — and then himself — any other way. We can’t deny the deadly connection between domestic violence and gun violence. Too much is at stake. As a survivor and advocate for those experiencing intimate partner violence, I am thrilled that the House voted to reauthorize VAWA.”

H.R. 1585 includes life-saving gun safety provisions that are common-sense and bipartisan. Last week, the NRA came out in opposition to this legislation because it would close the “boyfriend loophole.”

Key gun safety provisions in H.R. 1585 include:

  • H.R. 1585 would protect women from abusive dating partners by ensuring that their abusers are prohibited from possessing guns under federal law—using the definition of “dating partner” already contained in the Violence Against Women Act. Current federal law already prohibits gun possession by people convicted of or under a restraining order for abusing their spouses, but generally does not cover abuse between dating partners. This gap in the law has become increasingly deadly: The share of homicides committed by dating partners has been increasing for three decades, and now women are as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses.
  • H.R. 1585 would also protect women from domestic abusers by ensuring the FBI informs state law enforcement when domestic abusers fail a background check and are stopped from purchasing a firearm. This notice gives state law enforcement an opportunity to intervene before the abuser can obtain a firearm elsewhere or do further harm.

Women in the U.S. are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries. Put another way, 92 percent of all women killed with guns in high-income countries in 2015 were from the United States. And an astonishing share of this gun violence in America is driven by domestic violence. In an average month, at least 52 American women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, and many more are injured. Nearly 1 million women in the U.S. alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. More information about America’s lethal domestic violence problem is available here.

The gun lobby’s proposed solution is to arm women rather than focusing on policies that disarm domestic abusers. There is no research to support the notion that owning a gun increases safety for women; in fact, studies have shown the opposite. Compared to men, women living in households with a firearm are at greater risk of the weapon being used to harm them. And the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed by an abuser.

What’s more, a study of female intimate partner homicide risk factors found no protective impact of owning a gun among women even when they lived away from their abuser. And a California study found that women who owned a gun died by firearm homicide at twice the rate of women who did not.