With Gun Sales & Domestic Violence Surging Amid Pandemic, Blumenthal, Himes, Colleagues Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Close Dangerous Loophole to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors

[WASHINGTON, DC] – As gun sales spike and reports of domestic violence increase across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Jim Himes (D-CT) led their Congressional colleagues in introducing 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.

“Lori Jackson’s tragic death might have been avoided by a stronger protective order — through the reform we seek today,” said Blumenthal. “During the pandemic, surging domestic violence makes it even more urgent. Domestic violence is five times more likely to turn deadly for women when a gun is available. Six years after I first introduced this reform, abusers continue to exploit this gaping loophole to buy guns to terrorize or kill innocent victims. Congress must act now to save lives from senseless, needless gun violence.”

“Domestic violence affects one in four women nationwide,” said Himes. “We must do all we can to prevent domestic violence and mitigate its effects. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bill in the House of Representatives to ensure that dangerous abusers and stalkers are prohibited from gaining access to firearms. This legislation is especially relevant since domestic violence incidents have risen as a result of stay at home orders. This bill represents common-sense reforms and should be passed immediately.”

“You don’t realize what a family goes through when something like this happens. It doesn’t go away, it’s with you forever," said Merry Jackson, Lori Jackson’s mother. "But if you could save another family, a couple of kids, from not 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. This bill’s provisions are a component of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act, landmark legislation designed to support and protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, which continues to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate.

U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are cosponsoring the bill in the Senate. The full text of the Senate legislation can be found here and the one pager can be found here.

“Leaving a relationship can be deadly,” said Murphy. “We must make sure that domestic abusers and stalkers cannot have access to guns during that often volatile period when a relationship is ending. I’m proud to join Senator Blumenthal and my colleagues in introducing legislation that expands the prohibition on domestic abusers and stalkers possessing firearms and closes the ‘boyfriend loophole’ to protect survivors of domestic violence. This bill is a no-brainer and should be passed immediately.”

“After fleeing an abusive partner and filing a restraining order, the last thing that a survivor of domestic abuse should need to worry about is that their partner will take revenge with a gun that they are legally allowed to own or purchase,” said Hassan. “This commonsense bill will close a glaring loophole that allows abusers to purchase or possess a firearm and help prevent more senseless acts of gun violence against survivors.”  

“Domestic abusers should not have access to firearms. Period,” said Durbin. “We cannot permit federal law to continue allowing abusers under a temporary restraining order to still purchase or possess a gun, leaving survivors vulnerable to further harm. Congress must do its part to extend vital protections for survivors of domestic violence and keep guns out of the hands of known abusers.”

“Domestic violence effects one and four women nationwide, and we know that periods of crisis and financial stress only increase the likely hood of domestic violence,” said Markey. “I am proud to co-sponsor the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act. If a person has a temporary restraining order, they should not have access to a gun. This bill will save lives and is a commonsense approach to public safety.”

“Every day, victims of domestic violence are killed or severely injured because of loopholes that allow their abusers to legally obtain weapons,” said Harris. “We must take commonsense steps to prevent more tragedies. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this legislation to keep firearms out of the hands of abusive individuals.”

“I am proud to join Senator Blumenthal on the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act,” said Coons. “The time period after filing a temporary restraining order for protection from an abuser can be an especially dangerous period for a survivor escaping violence.  This bill will take crucial steps to protect victims of violence by restricting those under temporary restraining orders from purchasing a firearm during this period. No abuser should have access to firearms, and no survivor of domestic violence should live with that fear.”

“This pandemic has intensified risks for those experiencing domestic violence, as victims must remain at home and away from their support networks,” said Hirono. “This legislation would provide critical protections for domestic violence survivors at a time when they are facing heightened risk of abuse. As gun sales are surging across the country, we must make it clear: domestic abusers should not be able to purchase or possess firearms if there is any type of restraining order against them and domestic violence survivors who are abused by their dating partners should receive the same protections.”

“I’ve seen firsthand how domestic violence hurts families and entire communities. These tragedies are heartbreaking, and unfortunately, all too common, which is why I have made protecting victims of domestic violence one of my top priorities in the Senate,” said Klobuchar. “The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act will help protect victims of domestic violence, including dating partners, by keeping guns out of the hands of abusive partners who are under a court-imposed temporary restraining order. It’s important we continue to strengthen and improve the protections and services we already have for victims.”

“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.”

“With this bill, the entire nation could join Oregon in closing the ‘boyfriend loophole’ and protecting domestic abuse survivors from gun violence at the hands of their abusers,” said Wyden. “The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is a commonsense step to ensure public safety and prevent violence against vulnerable people.”

“Domestic abusers should never be able to get a gun, period, full stop,” said Gillibrand. “However, under current law, domestic abusers are only prohibited from obtaining a firearms with a permanent restraining order, meaning those with temporary restraining orders can purchase or possess a firearm. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would close this loophole and strengthen protections for survivors.”

“It’s shameful that we still have to debate this: closing a loophole in the law that allows domestic abusers to access firearms. It’s past time for Congress to right this wrong so we can stop another tragedy before it occurs,” said Shaheen. “The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is common-sense legislation that will help save lives. It’s time for Congress to get this done and amend the law to provide survivors with the protection they need and deserve.”

“Domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to deadly weapons,” said Feinstein. “A woman is 500 percent more likely to be killed in a domestic violence situation if a gun is present. Our bill closes a loophole that allows individuals under a temporary restraining order to legally possess a gun. Doing nothing is unacceptable.”

“This bill is a no-brainer and an important step in curbing domestic violence and abuse across our nation,” said Menendez. “Closing these loopholes will make survivors of domestic violence safer and inevitably save lives. Let’s stand in solidarity with survivors and swiftly pass this critical piece of legislation.”

U.S. Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY) are cosponsoring the House version of this legislation.

“With incidents of domestic violence skyrocketing during the COVID-19 crisis, taking steps to protect survivors has never been more important,” said Rice. “If a judge decides that an instance of domestic abuse warrants a restraining order, the abuser should not then be able to purchase a firearm. This is commonsense legislation that will save lives, and I’m proud to support it.”

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

“Thanks to deadly loopholes in our federal laws, there’s nothing to stop 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 Everytown for Gun Safety president John Feinblatt. “We applaud Senator Blumenthal for introducing this bill to close these deadly loopholes, which will help prevent what happened to Lori Jackson from happening again."

"As a survivor of domestic violence and gun violence, I can personally attest to the role that firearms play in exerting and maintaining power and control over a survivor," said National Coalition Against Domestic Violence CEO Ruth M. Glenn. "I was fortunate; I survived. Too many others do not."

“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,” said Newtown Action Alliance Chairwoman Po Murray. “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 out of the hands of abusers to save lives, particularly during this prolonged unprecedented pandemic.”

"The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence strongly endorses the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act,” said Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Director Dakota Jablon. “Expanding the definition of intimate partner to include current and former dating partners would protect individuals who have historically not received adequate protection. Making temporary domestic violence protective orders gun prohibitory will ensure victims are provided safety through the entire domestic violence protective order process. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is based in evidence and would help save countless lives; we are proud to support this bill and thank Senator Blumenthal for his leadership."

“We need the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Protection Act to help ensure that the over 10 million men and women who are physically abused by an intimate partner every year in the United States are protected during their most vulnerable moments, especially when such a threat has necessitated a court order to protect them,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “The presence of a firearm during a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent, so it is essential that our laws acknowledge that domestic violence does not begin or end with legal, spousal designation, or cohabitation. This bill will save lives by expanding the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and by ensuring that those subject to certain temporary restraining orders cannot possess firearms. Brady thanks Sen. Blumenthal for his attention and leadership on this issue and for standing up for the rights of victims and survivors to help make our country safer.”

“We know that domestic violence homicide is both predictable and therefore, preventable,” said CCADV CEO Karen Jarmoc. “Over the past decade, firearms continue to be the most predominant use of force to commence a domestic violence murder here in Connecticut. The opportunity to remove firearms from an abusive partner when a victim is seeking to leave the relationship is really critical.”