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Domestic Violence

New Bill Targets ‘Boyfriend Loophole’ in Domestic Violence Gun Cases

The Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act mimics legislation in South Carolina.

After gaining momentum at the state level, a push to make it harder for domestic abusers and stalkers to possess firearms is gathering bipartisan support in Congress.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Democrat Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Republican Congressman Robert Dold of Illinois announced H.R. 3130, the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act. The bill, which is identical to one introduced by Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota in 2013, would close several loopholes in existing law that experts in domestic violence prevention say allow abusers easy access to guns.

“I don’t look at this as a gun bill,” said Rep. Dingell in an interview with Bloomberg. “I look at this as a domestic violence bill.”

The legislation would close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” amending current law to include convicted abusers of current or former “dating partners” among those who are prohibited from owning guns under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. It would also prohibit gun ownership by anyone convicted of stalking.

The bill follows a nationwide campaign to pass similar legislation at the state level. More than 30 new laws relating to the intersection of guns and domestic violence have been passed by states since 2008, including nine laws passed so far in 2015, according to a press release from Americans for Responsible Solutions.

As Jennifer Mascia reported for The Trace, much of the recent domestic violence legislation has received the “tacit approval” of the National Rifle Association. But the NRA has previously opposed state-level efforts to close the “boyfriend loophole,” helping to defeat a Louisiana proposal earlier this year that included the same language on dating partners as the bill Dingell and Dold proposed earlier today.

An NRA spokeswoman called the Louisiana bill “so overly broad that it could make a felon out of a girlfriend who pulls a cell phone from her boyfriend’s hand against his will.”

Polling released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress shows that 82 percent of Americans support measures barring those convicted of domestic abuse or stalking from owning a gun.

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