The vast majority of House Republicans caved to pressure from the gun lobby on Thursday and refused to back Democrats' successful effort to extend the Violence Against Women Act for five years because of a new provision that would make it harder for abusers to acquire guns.
The 1994 law provides protections and funds programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. It's been reauthorized three times but expired in February. The new version passed the House 263-158 with support from all but one Democrat and only 33 Republicans. Read the full roll call results here: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2019/roll156.xml
It now faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is urging GOP lawmakers to oppose the updated version because of a gun-related provision to close the so-called "boyfriend loophole."
As ThinkProgress explained earlier this week:
Currently, people convicted of domestic abuse are only prohibited from possessing guns if they live with the victim, have a child with them, are a parent or guardian, or they are, or were once, married to them. This leaves out many cases of intimate partner violence, and the VAWA reauthorization would expand this to include dating partners, stalkers, and former partners.
Lindsay Nichols, federal policy director at the Giffords Law Center, which provides legal assistance to lawmakers, activists, and government attorneys for gun control efforts, told ThinkProgress that the provisions recognizing stalkers are an important addition to this law.
"While stalking is a strong indicator of future violence, people convicted of stalking misdemeanors are still eligible to purchase guns. This bill would close these loopholes, and increase enforcement of the laws that prevent domestic abusers from using guns to harm their victims," she said.
As the NRA and some Republican lawmakers condemned the provision as a politically motivated "poison pill," one of its key proponents, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), referenced her childhood when speaking about the importance of keeping guns out of the hands of abusers.
"This is something that I care very, very deeply about, because I lived in that household," she said outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. "I know what it's like to live in a household with someone that has issues that can snap at a minute's notice, and suddenly the gun is pointed at your mother or pointed at you. And as a child, you're trying to grab a gun from someone and keep them from killing each other."
Speaking on the House floor ahead of the vote Thursday, Dingell declared: "Do not let the NRA bully you. This is not a poison pill!”
"The NRA wants Congress to put the second amendment rights of abusers over the lives of the women and families who might die at their hands," the National Organization for Women (NOW) said in a statement on Thursday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the House floor Wednesday that he was "deeply disappointed" that some Republicans were "using the NRA as cover to vote against this reauthorization, which has been overwhelmingly in a bipartisan fashion reauthorized over and over again."
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who co-sponsored the House measure with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), said before it passed that "while we have made significant progress, we still have much to do."
"Movements like MeToo, across this country, demand Congress' attention," she said, "to better deal with the gaping holes left unfilled in current law around the issues of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault/harassment, and stalking."
Although the Senate may refuse to reauthorize the measure with the contested provisions, advocacy groups still took to Twitter to celebrate the House vote and highlight new additions:
This is great news as we near the end of the week. Today, the House passed a renewed Violence Against Women Act that expands transgender rights and includes special restrictions on gun ownership, including closing the “boyfriend loophole.” https://hubs.ly/H0hjSb80
Call your Senators today and demand support of the VAWA provision that would make it harder for abusers to acquire guns.
Sen. Ron Johnson (202) 224-5323
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (202) 224-5653
Outside of Wisconsin (202) 224-3121
Source: 157 Republicans, and 1 Democrat, Side With NRA as House Passes Updated Violence Against Women Act
By Jessica Corbett, commondreams.org