Violence Against Women Act reapproved by House
WASHINGTON – The House voted Thursday to reauthorize a 25-year-old law that helps victims of domestic and sexual violence, despite complaints by Republicans that Democrats were politicizing the popular law by expanding gun control.
The bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act includes a provision making it easier to take away guns from violent offenders even if they are not a spouse or domestic partner. The amendment closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by barring those convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking a current or former dating partner from buying or owning a firearm.
Supporters said the measure was crucial to protect women in the United States, who die from gun violence at rates far higher than other high-income countries. But the National Rifle Association and some Republicans called the measure a political trap intended to portray gun-rights supporters as anti-women.
The House approved the bill, 263-158, sending it to the Senate. Thirty-three Republicans joined with Democrats to support the bill. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota was the only Democrat to oppose it.
Four House members from Indiana – Democratic Reps. Andre Carson and Pete Visclosky and Republican Reps. Susan Brooks and Jackie Walorski – voted in favor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. Indiana Republican Reps. Jim Banks of Columbia City, Jim Baird, Larry Bucshon, Trey Hollingsworth and Greg Pence voted against the legislation.
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the second-ranking House Republican, accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of intentionally allowing the domestic violence law to expire in February despite bipartisan support for extending it.
“Nancy Pelosi forced it to expire so she could use women as part of some political leverage,” Scalise said at a news conference Thursday. He accused Pelosi, D-Calif., of trying to “use different groups of people as pawns in her political game.”
Pelosi said the gun-control provisions were “common-sense reforms that will save lives and that no one should object to.”
Noting past Republican support for the law, Pelosi said, “There should be nothing partisan or political about ending the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault, which one in three women faces today.”
Under current federal law, those convicted of domestic abuse can lose their guns if they are currently or formerly married to their victim, live with the victim, have a child together or are a victim's parent or guardian. The proposed amendment would extend the provision to stalkers and current or former dating partners.
If lawmakers are trying to save lives, “Why would you not close a simple loophole that says if someone has been convicted of domestic violence or stalking that they not have access to a gun?” asked Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.
Dingell, who recalls hiding in a closet from her gun-wielding, mentally ill father, said she knows what it's like to live in a home where someone “can snap at a minute's notice and suddenly the gun is pointed at your mother or pointed at you.”