McConnell blocks help for abuse victims as lockdown puts them at greater risk

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New polling finds a surge of support for gun safety measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

After closing down for a month due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has returned to its usual role of blocking legislation previously passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives, including some that could help abuse victims trapped in lockdown with their abusers.

Last year, the House passed hundreds of pieces of legislation, including a bipartisan gun safety bill that would require universal background checks for all firearms sales. Although that bill passed by a strong 240-to-190 majority last February, it has not been given a vote in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to block it and at least 394 other House bills.

"It is true. They've been on full left-wing parade over there, trotting out all of their left-wing solutions that are going to be issues in the fall campaign," McConnell told Fox News in February. "We're not gonna pass those." He has previously nicknamed himself the "Grim Reaper" who kills progressive legislation.

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Without the gun safety law, people in most states can purchase guns through private sales, including at gun shows, without having to go through any criminal background check.

It has been over a year since the House sent the background check bill to the Senate. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic resulting in stay-at-home orders in most states, gun safety protections have become even more important for many Americans.

As states moved into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, large numbers of domestic abuse victims found themselves trapped at home with their abusers. While other types of crime are reported to have plummeted since social distancing rules went into effect, reports of domestic violence in many communities have spiked.

Activists around the world have reported the increased domestic abuse numbers. The advocacy group Women Deliver told the Guardian, "What we worry about is just as rates of violence are on the rise, the accessibility of services and the ability of women to access these services will decrease. This is a real challenge."

"We are hearing from survivors how COVID-19 is already being used by their abusive partners to further control and abuse, how COVID-19 is already impacting their ability to access support and services like accessing shelter, counseling, different things that they would typically lean on in their communities," Crystal Justice of the National Domestic Violence Hotline said.

In March, the number of gun purchases spiked to an all-time high, and accidental gun deaths involving children increased by 43%.

Poll results released Monday by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Global Strategy Group found that support for background checks has increased since the pandemic began.

Asked if it was "more or less important to require background checks on all gun sales now than it was before the coronavirus outbreak," a total of 60% said it was more important, and 3% said less. When asked if it was now "more or less important to pass legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers," 68% said it was more important, and 2% said less.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, independents, and gun owners all said "more important" in response to both questions.

"This poll makes it clear that for voters across the country, and across political parties, the pandemic has only intensified their desire for common-sense gun laws," the president of Everytown for Gun Safety, John Feinblatt, said in a press release. "Support for gun safety is surging, along with the electoral prospects of candidates who pledge to do everything in their power to prevent gun violence."

McConnell's office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the poll results.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.