New gun policy weakens “Boyfriend Loophole,” but domestic violence advocates say it’s not closed yet
Under new gun violence measures, convicted domestic offenders will be denied guns if they have current or past “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” with a survivor. Abusers will be able to buy firearms after five years, if no additional violent crimes are committed.
On Saturday President Joe Biden signed the most sweeping gun violence measure in decades, touching on items from background checks to mental health. One measure in particular is drawing attention from domestic violence organizations.
The policy addresses the “Boyfriend Loophole,” which refers to a previous gap in federal law, barring domestic abusers from having firearms. Previously, these restrictions only applied to those who were married, living together or who had a child together – not dating partners alone.
“Recognize that just because I’m not married to this person or we don’t share children, doesn’t mean that the risk to me is less severe. Domestic violence homicides are real and the risk of homicide increases when a survivor chooses to end the relationship,” Charisse Mitchell, CEO of the YWCA of West Central Michigan said.
Now convicted domestic offenders will be denied guns if they have a current or past “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” with a survivor. Abusers will be able to buy firearms after five years, if no additional violent crimes are committed.
While Mitchell says this is a great next step, she warns the five-year window comes with dangerous speculation.
“My concern with that exception is who’s defining what’s violent? If I have a partner who has come in and sets a gun on the table, hasn’t laid a hand on me I know how that interaction is going to end. Just because I don’t have any bruises on me in that particular moment, that is a very violent and real threat,” she explained.
As she celebrates the new policy she says her team continues to push for greater survivor protections.
“It’s a start in the right direction, but I wouldn’t say that the loophole is closed simply because there’s a five-year limit, because after that all limits are off,” Mitchell said.