Joni Ernst doesn't want to take guns away from domestic abusers


The Iowa Republican is refusing to back a bipartisan House reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) announced on Thursday that she is no longer working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and will introduce a watered-down version instead.

Ernst denounced Senate Democrats for wanting to move forward on the bipartisan bill that passed the House, likening its provisions disarming domestic abusers to "partisan political talking points."

The House passed its version of the Violence Against Women Act in April, on a 263-158 vote. Thirty-three Republicans supported the measure, though most Republicans — and their National Rifle Association funders — opposed it because it would make it more difficult for known domestic abusers to get guns.

The 2013 re-authorization of the law has expired; the House bill would revive it until 2024.

But like virtually every other piece of major legislation passed by the House, the bill hit a roadblock in the form of Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The Senate majority leader and self-described "Grim Reaper" has refused to bring the bill up for a vote. As the bill has languished for more than six months, Ernst and Feinstein engaged in what the Iowa Republican described as "good faith" negotiations to try to find a compromise.

“But, just this week, after months of work and mountains of effort toward a bipartisan bill, it all came to a screeching halt," Ernst said Thursday, in a speech on the Senate floor. "Once again, the Democrats are putting politics ahead of people — and have decided to move forward on the House-passed VAWA bill."

Ernst called the House bill "a non-starter" that was "chock full of partisan political talking points that take us further away from, rather than closer to, a bill we can get over the finish line."

The bill is apparently a "non-starter" because Ernst and other Senate Republicans have chosen instead to prioritize the NRA's opposition to blocking those convicted of stalking and domestic abuse from buying guns. Victims of intimate partner violence are at high risk of being victims of gun violence and scientific research has shown a close link between mass shootings and people with a history of domestic abuse and misogyny.

Ernst received an "A" rating and full endorsement from the NRA in her 2014 campaign. She received more than $3.1 million in campaign spending and donations from the group and has worked to weaken gun laws.

"Election year politics are in full swing," Ernst claimed on Thursday. "And the grim reality is Democrats cannot afford to be seen as giving Republicans a win."

She continued, claiming that "the far-left agenda of the House has hijacked" the legislative process.

"It sounds petty. And it sounds unbelievable. But, unfortunately that’s the reality," she claimed. "You would think that supporting survivors and preventing abuse would be placed ahead of petty politics."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.