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Congressman Brown Introduces Bill to Close Loopholes in Domestic Violence and Stalking Protections

Federal Loopholes Allow Convicted Stalkers and Those with Restraining Orders to Buy Firearms

Today, Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) introduced the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (H.R. 2670). The bill would close three potentially fatal loopholes in the federal law that allow convicted stalkers and those under temporary restraining orders to buy firearms, while also expanding the definition of “intimate partner” to provide protections to those subjected to physical abuse by current or former dating partners. When Congressman Brown was Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, he spearheaded the passage of “Cathy’s Law” – named in memory of his cousin who was shot and killed by her estranged boyfriend in 2008 – to take away guns from domestic abusers in Maryland. 

“While there is nothing that will bring Cathy back, we have the opportunity at the federal level to pass commonsense legislation that safeguards families from these horrors. Domestic violence has no race, gender, defining trait or ethnicity; it permeates communities of every color and socioeconomic status and it is up to us to protect survivors and ensure our wives, mothers and daughters live free from the fear of domestic violence” said Congressman Brown. “When 20 people every minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, there is always more we can do. Especially when there are gaps in the system it is our moral responsibility to address them, close them and save lives.”

"The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence welcomes this legislative proposal to increase safety for victims of domestic violence and expand protections for victims in dating relationships and those who are stalked by removing firearms from these potentially lethal situations,” said Michaele Cohen, Executive Director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.

“Many survivors of abuse are incredibly vulnerable to firearm-related homicide, and yet they are not covered by current law,” said Marium Durrani with the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “We applaud this important legislation that would help save the lives of survivors across the country.”

“By bringing together local and national stakeholders, we are building a united coalition dedicated to passing commonsense protections that will save people’s lives,” added Congressman Brown.

The Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act would close these three loopholes that allow abusers to buy firearms:

Temporary Restraining Order Loophole:

Currently, only those under a permanent restraining order are federally prohibited from possessing a firearm. However, the first step a victim of domestic violence can take is to obtain a temporary restraining order – experts believe this is the most likely time an abuser will lash out against a victim. As the law stands, this leaves survivors open to abuse before the temporary status is transitioned to a permanent restraining order. This bill would put temporary restraining orders on par with permanent restraining orders, eliminating any delays in protection.

Dating Partner Loophole:

The definition of “intimate partner,” which is currently used to prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence from buying a gun, includes spouses, former spouses, parents, people who share a child and cohabitants, but excludes victims in a dating relationship with an abuser. 49 percent of all murders committed by an intimate partner were committed by a dating partner – expanding the definition to include current and former dating partners is critical to protecting survivors of domestic violence.

Stalking Loophole:

Stalking is often the first step in an escalating pattern of criminal behavior that leads to violence. In the United States, only 50 percent of stalking incidents are reported to the police, and 76 percent of women who were murdered by a partner were first stalked. Currently, there is no federal ban on gun ownership for convicted stalkers. The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act would treat stalking similarly to other domestic violence crimes by closing the loophole that allows them to buy firearms.

Congressman Brown has a long and personal history of advocating for individuals affected by domestic violence.

Organizations in support of the legislation:

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh;

Prince George’s Sheriff Melvin High;

Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks;

Center for American Progress;

Community Advocates for Family and Youth;

Futures Without Violence;

Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence;

National Center for Victims of Crime;

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence;

National Domestic Violence Hotline;

National Network to End Domestic Violence;

National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence;

Youth Women’s Christian Association (YWCA USA);

Prince George’s Department of Family Services – Division of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking;

Prince George’s Hospital Center – Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center;

Community of Hope AME Church, Temple Hills; and

First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Landover.

46 Representatives co-sponsoring the bill include:

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), Nanette Barragán (CA), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Brendan Boyle (PA), Julia Brownley (CA), Salud Carbajal (CA), David Cicilline (RI), Katherine Clark (MA), Yvette Clarke (NY), John Delaney (MD), Anna Eshoo (CA), Elizabeth Esty (NY), Dwight Evans (PA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Luis Gutierrez (IL), Alcee Hastings (FL), Jim Himes (CT), Bill Keating (MA), Robin Kelly (IL), Ro Khanna (CA), Rick Larsen (WA), Ted Lieu (CA), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Betty McCollum (MN), Jerry McNerney (CA), Grace Meng (NY), Gwen Moore (WI), Grace Napolitano (CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Frank Pallone (NJ), Jimmy Panetta (CA), Scott Peters (CA), Mark Pocan (WI), Mike Quigley (IL), Jamie Raskin (MD), Jan Schakowsky (IL), José Serrano (NY), Carol Shea-Porter (NH), Louise Slaughter (NY), Jackie Speier (CA), Eric Swalwell (CA), Mark Takano (CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ).

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