March 16, 2021

Van Hollen, Blumenthal, Himes Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Close Dangerous Loophole to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Jim Himes (D-CT) introduced strongly-supported bicameral legislation to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is narrowly crafted to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to legally obtain weapons. The bill is named in memory of Lori Jackson, an Oxford, Connecticut mother of two who was tragically shot and killed by her estranged husband, who had legally obtained a handgun even though he was subject to a temporary restraining order. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to take up the legislation this week as part of its reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

“Temporary restraining orders can provide a crucial line of defense against an abusive spouse or partner. But with loopholes that allow abusers to still purchase guns under these circumstances, we cannot fully protect those fleeing danger. We must immediately fix this issue to help ensure the safety and security of domestic violence survivors. And we must extend these protections and others to Americans abused by their dating partners. It’s time to pass this law and honor Lori Jackson’s memory with action,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Strengthening protective orders to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers will save lives – and could have saved Lori Jackson’s,” said Blumenthal. “When a gun is available, domestic violence is five times more likely to turn deadly for women. Congress must close this dangerous loophole for the sake of domestic violence survivors and end the senseless cycle of gun violence.”

“Passing the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act into law will save lives,” said Himes. “Lori’s death might have been prevented. Women who are the victims of intimate partner violence need laws that keep guns out of the hands of their abusers, or we will see this kind of tragedy repeated over and over. The bill we’re introducing today expands protections in a way that puts domestic abuse victims’ safety first and will mean fewer guns in the hands of dangerous abusers.”

“It’s hard to imagine what a family goes through when something like this happens,” said Merry Jackson, Lori Jackson’s mother.  “It never goes away, it’s with you forever. But if you could save another family and kids from losing their mom, it would mean the world to me.”

The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would close dangerous loopholes in federal law, thereby protecting millions of Americans. Current federal law protects domestic violence survivors from gun violence by preventing their abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm – but only once the court has issued a permanent restraining order. This leaves survivors unprotected exactly when they are in the most danger: when a domestic abuser first learns his or her victim has left and only a temporary restraining order is in place. Further, the current definition of “intimate partner” used to prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm includes spouses, former spouses, people with a child in common, and cohabitants. However, there are many survivors of dating violence who were never married, do not live with their abuser, and have no children.

This bill would restrict those under temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm, and would extend protections to domestic violence survivors who have been abused by their dating partners. The bill’s provisions are a component of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, landmark legislation designed to support and protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and scheduled to be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are cosponsoring the bill in the Senate. U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) is cosponsoring the House version of this legislation.

The full text of the Senate legislation can be found here

“Domestic violence impacts one in four women nationwide, and we’ve got to do more to protect them,” said Murphy. “Leaving an abuser is often fraught with danger for a survivor of domestic violence, and the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act ensures that women are protected during that critical period, when their abuser may be under a temporary, rather than permanent, restraining order. This is lifesaving legislation, and with the uptick of gun purchases and heightened risk of domestic violence during the pandemic, it is all the more urgent that we get this done.”

“Lori Jackson, a mother of two, was a day away from obtaining a permanent restraining order against her abusive husband when a loophole allowed her abuser to purchase a firearm, which he would later use to murder her,” said Durbin. “I am proud to once again support the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, which would close this loophole and restrict those with temporary restraining orders from purchasing a firearm.”

“Giving domestic abusers access to guns is a deadly combination,” said Feinstein. “A woman is 500 percent more likely to be killed if a gun is present during a domestic violence situation. With the surge in domestic violence during the pandemic, it’s past time to close this loophole and prevent abusers under temporary restraining orders from legally possessing guns.”

“Allowing domestic abusers to own a lethal weapon threatens a survivor’s life and day-to-day sense of safety,” said Hassan. “The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act closes a dangerous loophole that currently allows abusers to buy and possess a gun. I will continue working with my colleagues to pass commonsense gun safety measures like this one that will help keep our communities safe and prevent more senseless acts of gun violence.”

“Gun sales in the United States have surged to record heights since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, and we know that periods of crisis and financial stress only increase the likelihood of domestic violence,” said Markey. “I am proud to co-sponsor the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act with Senator Blumenthal. If a person has a temporary restraining order, they should not have access to a gun. This legislation will save lives and is a commonsense approach to public safety.”

“Congress needs to take more steps to protect people who have experienced domestic violence,” said Smith. “This legislation will prevent a domestic abuser who is subject to a temporary restraining order from buying or possessing a firearm. It’s one of the many steps we should take to support and empower individuals who have experienced domestic violence.”

“Preventing domestic abusers from accessing firearms should not be a controversial concept. It’s a common-sense measure to keep survivors and their families out of harm’s way and make our communities safer,” said Shaheen. “This legislation would help save lives by helping to keep firearms out of the hands of those who wish to do harm. It’s time for Congress to get this done and amend the law to provide survivors with the protection they need and deserve.”

“There’s no excuse for gaps in federal law that expose domestic violence victims to gun violence,” said Whitehouse. “I’m glad to cosponsor this important bill to help protect millions of survivors.”

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand how victims of domestic violence too often live in fear not only for their own lives, but also the lives of their loved ones. That is why I have made protecting these victims one of my top priorities in the Senate,” said Klobuchar. “This commonsense legislation will prevent abusive partners from accessing guns – an important step to ensure victims’ safety. We can never stop working on behalf of women, children, and families everywhere to end domestic violence.”

“Domestic violence is all too common across this nation, and every survivor deserves to feel safe and protected,” said Duckworth. “This means closing the senseless loopholes that allow abusers with temporary restraining orders to legally access firearms. We must do more to ensure the safety of survivors and support these necessary protections, and I’m proud to join Senator Blumenthal in helping introduce this vital legislation.”

“Back in 2018, Oregon closed the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ protecting domestic abuse survivors from gun violence at the hands of their abusers. Domestic abuse survivors in every single state deserve the same level of protection as Oregonians,” said Wyden. “Congress must swiftly pass this needed public safety measure to help keep our most vulnerable safe.”

“We need to close a loophole that allows easy access of guns for domestic abusers who shouldn’t have them,” said Baldwin. “This legislation will protect domestic violence survivors whose lives are too often taken by gun violence.”

“We know that a gun in the hands of an abusive partner is a deadly combination,” said Menendez. “Yet while federal laws are intended to help protect victims of domestic violence, dangerous loopholes allow these abusers to buy and keep firearms even while under a temporary restraining order.  Survivors of domestic violence do not have another moment to waste before we act. Throughout the pandemic, firearm sales have surged. We must do everything in our power to keep guns out of the hands of violent abusers, protect survivors and save lives.”

“Domestic violence is a public health crisis in this country, and the failure of Congress to pass commonsense gun violence prevention legislation has made such a crisis even deadlier,” said Casey. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused an increase in reports of domestic violence, we must act now to pass The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act and close the loophole that allows abusers to obtain weapons before another life is lost.”

“I am proud to join Senator Blumenthal to reintroduce the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act,” said Coons. “No abuser should have access to firearms, and no survivor of domestic violence should live with that fear. This bill will take critical steps to protect survivors by restricting those under temporary restraining orders from purchasing a firearm.”

“The alarming rise of domestic violence during this pandemic—particularly for women of color, for whom the crisis is even more dire—has made it all the more urgent that we close the dangerous loophole that allows abusers and stalkers to obtain firearms,” said Murray. “We owe it to women and families across the country—and to Lori Jackson and her family—to make this common-sense reform. I’m proud to join Senator Blumenthal to introduce this critical bill and I’ll keep fighting in the Senate to strengthen protections for domestic violence survivors and ensure they have the resources they need to stay safe, obtain justice, and heal.”

“In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, our country is in the middle of another public health crisis: the gun violence epidemic that is tearing our communities apart,” said Warren. “Congress has a duty to make this country safer by enacting strong gun violence prevention laws, and that includes common-sense laws like The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, which closes dangerous loopholes that allow domestic abusers to obtain firearms.”

“Domestic abusers should not be able to purchase a gun,” said Gillibrand. “Under current law, domestic abusers with temporary restraining orders can still purchase or possess a firearm, putting survivors in danger. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is designed to close dangerous loopholes that allow abusers to legally obtain weapons and strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”

The legislation is supported by a number of advocacy and support groups, including National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, Sandy Hook Promise, and the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV).

“Armed domestic abusers pose a unique danger to their victims and their communities. An estimated 4.5 million American women alive today have been threatened by an abuser with a firearm; 1 million have either been shot or shot at. An abuser’s possession of a firearm is correlated with increased severity of domestic violence and with increased prevalence of stalking,” said President and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Ruth M. Glenn. “When a male abuser has access to a firearm, the likelihood that he will murder a female intimate partner increases by 400%. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is critical to keeping guns out of the hands of adjudicated abusers. It will minimize risk and save lives."

“Disarming domestic abusers saves lives. But, due to deadly loopholes in our federal laws, there’s nothing stopping abusive dating partners and people with temporary restraining orders from buying or possessing a firearm, even though the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be murdered,” said founder of Moms Demand Action Shannon Watts. “We applaud Senator Blumenthal for his unwavering leadership on this issue, and we urge his colleagues to join him in fighting to close these deadly loopholes for good."

“Lori Jackson’s story is a tragic reminder of the unique threat that firearms pose to individuals in situations of intimate partner violence, especially in the high-risk period when a victim is taking the courageous step of leaving their abuser,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “Risk of homicide increases by nearly 500 percent when a firearm is in a home where intimate partner violence is taking place - a risk that disproportionately affects women. When half of women killed by intimate partners were killed by dating partners, this bill is a common-sense remedy to this clear and present threat, protecting victims of abuse regardless of marital status or when they seek a temporary restraining order from an active abuser. Brady is grateful to Sen. Blumenthal for championing this lifesaving bill.”

"This bill will save lives by bridging the gap between our laws and the lived realities of millions of people confronting domestic violence," said Director of Federal Affairs for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Dakota Jablon. "Intimate partner violence and gun violence are inextricably linked public health crises — domestic violence is five times more likely to be deadly if the perpetrator has access to a gun. CSGV thanks Senator Blumenthal for his leadership in expanding these lifesaving protections by introducing the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Protection Act, and we look forward to seeing this bill become law."

“More guns were sold in 2020 than any other year. Amid the dangerous surge in gun sales during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a safety warning on its website for the victims of domestic violence. We agree with the DOJ that increased stress and financial uncertainty during the pandemic coupled with more guns in the homes will result in increased risk for the domestic violence victims. In America, domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when the abusers have access to guns. Congress must pass Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act now to keep guns away from abusers to save lives, particularly during this prolonged unprecedented pandemic,” said Chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance Po Murray.

“The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is a commonsense law that will help protect families from violence in times of crisis. Gun violence is preventable when we know the warning signs, including domestic violence, and put in place proven safety laws to stop a tragedy before it happens,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and father of Daniel who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. “We thank Senator Blumenthal for introducing this legislation that will keep more families safe.”

“This measure provides comprehensive protection for victims of domestic violence at the absolute most dangerous time,” said CCADV Director of Public Policy & Communications Liza Andrews. “Domestic violence and access to firearms is a deadly combination and this is never more true than when a victim is taking steps to end an abusive relationship. It is during this time more than ever when they need protection from firearms and that is what this law will provide if passed. We thank Senators Blumenthal and Murphy and the entire Connecticut delegation for their ongoing leadership on this matter.”