Federal Law Still Allows Many Domestic Abusers To Obtain Guns, Two Senators Want To Fix That

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A loophole in federal law permits domestic abusers to purchase a firearm even after they are subject to a temporary restraining order due to their abuse. Next month, however, Sens. Dick Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) plan to introduce legislation to close this loophole and ensure that abusers cannot obtain firearms during the especially volatile period immediately after their victim seeks legal action.

According to the New Haven Independent, under current law abusers subject to permanent restraining orders are not permitted to buy firearms, but in most states abusers subject to temporary orders are still able to buy guns. Moreover, in many jurisdictions temporary restraining orders are issued shortly after a woman applies for a permanent order, while the permanent order itself may not issue until a hearing occurs a week or two later. Thus, under current law, a many victims face a week or longer where their abuser will both be enraged that their victim took legal action against them and fully capable of purchasing a deadly weapon.

Unless Senate Democrats invoke the so-called “nuclear opinion,” their Republican counterparts will have the power to filibuster this bill. And even if the bill clears the Senate it still must survive Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) House.

If Congressional Republicans oppose the law, however, it will put them at odds with the very rhetoric they used to justify their opposition to gun regulation earlier this year. During a key Senate hearing on a proposed gun safety law, Republicans selected a witness who claimed that assault rifles should be legal because women can use them to defend against attackers. In reality, of course, there is little evidence suggesting that loose gun laws protect women. To the contrary, two-thirds of people killed by domestic abusers were killed by a firearm and “abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.”

Nevertheless, Blumenthal and Murphy’s bill will give Republicans a chance to demonstrate that their concern for women is genuine, and not just a rhetorical ploy. To do so, however, they will have to allow the bill to become law.