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Boyfriend Loophole: Closed in New Gun Safety Legislation 

This Congress, we have seen great strides made toward bipartisan cooperation. Whether by necessity or a true desire for cooperation, it has required our legislators to work together. These legislative solutions have been difficult to find but ultimately successful and impactful to Americans across the country. 

Our nation has been repeatedly stunned and damaged as we have seen an increase in mass shootings. Most painfully, we have seen evil on earth when shooters target our children. On Tuesday, June 21, following several meetings of a bipartisan group of 20 Senators led by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), legislative text was introduced and brought to the floor for consideration. The text included enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21, funding for mental health services, and increased school safety measures. Additionally, the bill contained a provision to close the boyfriend loophole.

In March, we saw Congress come together and support the compromises Senators Ernst (R-IA), Feinstein (D-CA), Murkowski (R-AL), and Durbin (D-IL) made to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This bill was swiftly signed into law by President Biden, who had spearheaded the original VAWA decades prior as a Senator. One thing that had to be left on the chopping block during the negotiations for this legislation was closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” 

Despite the political talking points coming from various groups, this provision will not harm law-abiding citizens. Only those who have been convicted of domestic violence against their partner – married or not – will be affected by the closure. Additionally, the Senate bill will provide an opportunity to regain lost gun rights after 5 years. Although closing the loophole has caused concern for many of our elected officials, Americans largely support this measure. On Wednesday, June 22, Echelon Insights released polling data saying 70% of the electorate supported the closure of the boyfriend loophole. Despite many aspects of gun control being highly controversial, this data set shows that the electorate does in fact support common-sense measures that do not impede the second amendment rights granted to us in the constitution.

On Saturday, June 25, President Biden signed the bill into law, making it the first major gun safety legislation in over a decade. Prior to this implementation, federal law only prohibited someone who has been convicted of domestic violence – against someone they have been married to, lived with, or with whom they have a child in common – from owning or purchasing a firearm. The loophole excluded dating partners, allowing these abusers to continue accessing firearms unrestricted. An academic study found that from 2014 to 2019, 59% of mass shootings were related to domestic violence and in 68% of mass shootings, the perpetrator either killed at least one partner or family member or had a history of domestic violence. 

Closing the boyfriend loophole will save lives. Days after the tragedy in Uvalde, Iowa experienced its own tragedy. One night in Ames, Iowa, Eden Montang and her friend Vivian Flores were attending a church service for college students when Montang’s former boyfriend shot and killed the two women. Following their breakup weeks prior, Montang had to obtain a restraining order against him when he was charged with repeatedly stalking and harassing her. Montang’s former partner even impersonated an officer to obtain information about her. This was not the first time he exhibited this behavior. In 2017, after a similar breakup, a different ex-girlfriend received a protective order against the gunman. While expressing concerns for her safety, she specifically worried about his access to guns. This bill will safeguard women like Montang and Flores from falling victim to domestic abusers who should not, and will not, have access to firearms.

With the boyfriend loophole closed, enhanced background checks for 18- to 21-year-old individuals purchasing firearms, increased funding for mental health resources, and enhanced school safety measures, the American people can have some peace of mind during a time of such uncertainty. 

Maggie J. Ruffini, TWG Vice President of Policy and Government Relations & Strategy Consultant