In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, which left 14 children and three teachers dead, Oregon lawmakers passed gun control legislation, while federal lawmakers gave their thoughts and prayers.
The Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would expand a federal gun ban to include people convicted of domestic violence against partners they’re not married to, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” The bill would also ban people convicted of misdemeanor stalking from owning a gun. The legislation heads next to the Senate, of which leadership supports, and then Gov. Kate Brown (D), a sponsor of the bill.
Oregon’s bill addresses a significant corollary in gun violence: domestic abuse. A Florida student told the Associated Press the Parkland shooter had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and he was expelled over a fight with her new boyfriend. This is not surprising. From 2009 to 2016, domestic violence was a factor in the majority of shootings in which at least 4 people were killed. In 2016, the deadly shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub — just three hours north of Parkland — was also committed by a man with a history of abusing his wife.
“Employing harassment, violence, and coercion against women has long been considered a normal way for men to behave in romantic relationships, as deeply ingrained gender norms teach men that they’re entitled to women’s bodies,” wrote ThinkProgress’ Tara Culp-Ressler after the Orlando shooting. “This toxic approach to masculinity has been directly linked to the sense of entitlement that drives many mass shooters to commit their crimes.”
While there’s strong evidence to suggest toxic masculinity plays a central role in mass shootings — more so than race, religion, or immigration status — federal lawmakers have not moved on virtually any gun safety laws for more than 20 years.
The 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban bars convicted domestic abusers from possessing guns, but there are various loopholes: federal law doesn’t require abusers to hand over their guns; abuse is only considered domestic violence if the survivor is or was married or has a child with their abuser (the so-called “boyfriend loophole”); and the federal background check system is often incomplete of domestic abuse information.
As is the case in Oregon, state lawmakers nationwide have had to pass legislation that closes these loopholes due to federal inaction. Last year, Washington became the first state to alert victims of domestic violence any time their abuser sought to purchase a gun.
Parkland shooting survivors have been pleading with federal lawmakers to act. “The fact that this is the 18th school shooting and this is only February is a testament…we need to dig out of this hole,” student David Hogg told reporters. “We need to step out of it and take a look back and realize that there’s something seriously wrong here. And some of our policymakers…need to look in the mirror and take some action, because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die.”
A federal lawmaker has introduced a bill that would further address domestic violence as it relates to mass shootings. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced legislation that would close the “boyfriend loophole.” Like all gun control legislation in Washington, D.C., the bill hasn’t garnered enough support to pass.
By addressing the link between domestic abuse and gun violence, the country could begin treating a serious public health problem. Victims of domestic violence are five times more likely to be murdered if the abuser has access to a firearm, research shows. In Oregon, the “boyfriend loophole” bill was introduced to address this public health problem and the vote just so happened to coincide with the Florida shooting. More than 250 residents were killed by domestic abusers between 2003 and 2012, according to Oregon Health Authority data.
“I believe from the bottom of my heart that this bill will save lives in Oregon,” said local Rep. Jeff Barker (D) on the House floor during debate. More than one member cried on the House floor when discussing the bill according to local reports.