Menendez, Booker and Colleagues Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors amidst COVID-19 Gun Sales and Domestic Violence Surge

Menendez, Booker and Colleagues Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors amidst COVID-19 Gun Sales and Domestic Violence Surge

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As gun sales spike and reports of domestic violence increase across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez  and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.), joined a group of colleagues in introducing 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 House bill was introduced by Congressman Jim Himes (D-Conn.-4).

“This bill is a no-brainer and an important step in curbing domestic violence and abuse across our nation,” said Sen. 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.”

“It is completely unacceptable that domestic abusers are able to possess firearms when a victim has obtained a temporary restraining order against the abuser,” said Sen. Booker. “The consequences of continued congressional inaction are deadly and we cannot continue to accept this shameful status quo, particularly when the spread of COVID-19 has placed domestic violence survivors at a heightened risk of abuse. This legislation is necessary to protect domestic violence survivors by closing loopholes that allow their abusers to legally obtain weapons.”

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 a 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.

Sens. Menendez and Booker were joined by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Penn.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in cosponsoring the Senate bill.

The bill is named in memory of Lori Jackson, a 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 Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is supported by a number of advocacy and support groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, Brady, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“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.

"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.”

The text of the bill can be found here.