One of the most overlooked aspects of the gun debate in America is the deadly connection between guns and domestic violence. As part of our ongoing partnership with Americans for Responsible Solutions, the Law Center has developed Commonsense Solutions: State Laws to Address Gun Violence Against Women. This toolkit for legislators and advocates both documents existing laws on guns and domestic violence and offers suggestions for commonsense gun laws to better protect victims of domestic violence.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we strongly believe that by implementing smart gun laws, we can reduce the number of domestic violence incidents that end in firearm-related deaths or injuries. While men and children can also be victims of domestic violence, women are particularly at risk.
Our newest Commonsense Solutions toolkit is a comprehensive legal resource that provides specifics on statutes and regulations and offers detailed proposals for smart laws that state legislators across the country can introduce to prevent domestic abusers from accessing guns. The policy recommendations, many of which address loopholes in current federal law, include:
- Ensuring that anyone who has been convicted of violence against a dating partner cannot purchase or own guns. Current federal law contains loopholes where many abusers have access to guns because their relationships with their dating partners do not qualify as “domestic,” (e.g., they do not involve people who are married or cohabitating). States should broaden these laws to apply to protect a greater number of women in abusive relationships.
- Closing the “stalker gap.” While people convicted of felony stalking are prohibited from buying or owning guns, those convicted of misdemeanor stalking are not. By prohibiting the purchase or possession of guns by anyone convicted of misdemeanor stalking or subject to a protective order against stalking, leaders at the state level can better protect victims of stalking.
- Ensuring that individuals subject to temporary restraining orders can’t access guns. Temporary restraining orders cover the short period before a full court hearing, but current federal law only prohibits gun possession by abusers subject to full protective orders, leaving open a dangerous window for violence.
- Identifying domestic abusers in the background check system used to purchase guns. By providing these records, states can ensure that these violent offenders cannot pass a background check.
“This toolkit will be an invaluable resource for lawmakers seeking to better protect women from gun violence,” says Law Center Executive Director Robyn Thomas. “Through our comprehensive review of existing state laws and concrete, commonsense policy suggestions, we provide legislators with the information they need to enact real and lasting change on this issue. Our partnership with Americans for Responsible Solutions provides us with a powerful opportunity to lead the way in the fight for smarter gun laws.”