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This gap in federal law means that it is still legal for a sizable number of domestic violence offenders likely to perpetrate violence against women to buy and possess guns—and that a law designed to prevent lethal violence against women no longer reflects the realities of American life.Dating partners are also responsible for a sizable number of mass shootings.Fortunately, legislative momentum for stronger state domestic violence laws is growing—among policy makers from both major parties. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia also have laws prohibiting people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from buying or possessing guns, as shown in the Appendix. Since its inception in 1998, NICS has stopped over 2.2 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers, including hundreds of thousands of domestic abusers. Between 19, state and local agencies issued a total of 945,915 denials, and it is estimated they have issued 225,000 denials in the three years since data was last released. 2013, Background Checks for Firearms Transfers, 2010–Statistical Tables, Feb. For agencies that reported reasons for these denials, 13.2 percent were denials for domestic violence reasons — which would represent another 155,000 domestic violence denials.In just the first half of 2014, for example, bipartisan coalitions of legislators passed bills in Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Washington State that prohibit domestic abusers from purchasing guns. The law defines “intimate partner” to cover spouses and former spouses, someone who lives with or has lived with the abuser, or someone who is the parent of a child of the abuser. Another nine states expressly authorize—but do not require—courts to include firearm prohibitions in restraining orders. Convictions for domestic violence misdemeanors are the third leading basis for dealers to deny gun sales after running a NICS check—trailing only felony convictions and arrest warrants—and overall, it is estimated that approximately 300,000 gun sales have been blocked because the would-be purchaser had an MCDV conviction or was subject to a prohibiting domestic violence restraining order. Department of Justice, FBI, NICS Denials: Reasons Why the NICS Section Denies, Nov. Thus, the background check system has likely issued close to 300,000 denials due to domestic violence-related criteria since its inception.When these laws are on the books and enforced properly, they save lives. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2011, available at Fe (excludes New York due to incomplete data); Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Supplementary Homicide Report, 2010.In the past sixteen years, the background check system has kept hundreds of thousands of guns out of abusers’ hands and prevented countless crimes. But because of loopholes in these laws and failures to enforce them, they do too little to curb the uniquely lethal American problem of guns and violence against women.

But federal law does The federal definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence applies to a current and former spouse, parent or guardian, cohabitator, or someone “similarly situated” to a spouse, parent, or guardian.

Prohibitions on Gun Possession by Domestic Abusers and Stalkers Various federal and state laws currently seek to prohibit domestic violence offenders from buying or possessing guns. In 1996, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced an amendment to the federal appropriations bill to extend the prohibition against gun ownership to those convicted of a domestic abuse misdemeanor. 2001) (holding that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the defendant had validly waived his right to counsel prior to pleading guilty to an underlying misdemeanor domestic violence charge). And in 2014, the Court recognized that a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse that involves physical force against the victim qualifies as an MCDV even if the crime in question did not involve especially “strong” or “violent” force.

Federal law prohibits domestic abusers from buying or possessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony; Under federal law, a person is prohibited from purchasing or possessing guns if he or she is convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment of more than one year. Lautenberg explained the need for the amendment by telling his colleagues that, in far too many cases, “the difference between a murdered wife and a battered wife is often the presence of a gun.” Passed as part of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, the Lautenberg Amendment made it a federal crime for anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to “ship, transport, possess or receive” guns or ammunition. Not all domestic violence misdemeanants are federally prohibited under this definition. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia also have state laws prohibiting gun possession by domestic violence misdemeanants.

Domestic violence and gun violence are intimately connected and directly related to our porous gun laws. In 18 percent of the mass shootings, the perpetrator had been previously charged with domestic violence.

Closing gaps in federal and state domestic violence laws will save women’s lives. Black et al., The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nov. Other research suggests more than one in four American women will suffer domestic violence in their lifetimes. Koziol-Mc Lain, et al., Risk factors for femicide within physically abuse intimate relationships: results from a multi-state case control study, 93 Amer. Whereas women make up only 13 percent of victims of gun homicide nationwide, they made up 51 percent of victims of mass shootings between 20.


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