Republicans are scrambling to defend their indefensible opposition to the Violence Against Women Act.
Republicans in Congress are afraid it will make them look bad to vote against a bill that fights domestic violence — so they're asking their pals at the NRA to step in and give them the political cover to do it.
National Journal reports that House Republicans held a conference call Monday to urge NRA representatives to come out against Democrats' new proposal to reauthorize and expand the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — a landmark piece of legislation that for 25 years has funded resources and strengthened legal protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
The NRA obliged the GOP by announcing that it will oppose VAWA — and that any members of Congress who vote for the bill will literally risk losing points with the NRA. (Many pro-gun extremist Republicans proudly tout their “100%” rating from the lobbying group.)
VAWA has to be reauthorized periodically, which used to be fairly routine and bipartisan in Congress. But in recent years, Republicans have raised a stink over the law because they think it goes too far to protect too many women — like women on Native American reservations, LGBTQ women, and immigrant women.
Republicans are also attacking LGBTQ rights in the measure this time around. Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), and Steve Chabot (R-OH) tried to derail VAWA in a committee mark-up with several hateful amendments that tried to exclude transgender people in particular from the bill's protections.
But the other big sticking point is gun safety, since the new VAWA bill expands provisions that keep guns out of the hands of violent abusers.
These provisions are important because having a gun in the home makes it five times more likely that an abused woman will be murdered. Moreover, many mass shooters have a history of domestic violence or stalking, and most "mass shootings" in the U.S. are actually domestic violence incidents.
Current law bans guns for people who have been convicted of domestic violence against a spouse or family member. But that leaves a "boyfriend loophole" that ignores dating violence, and stalkers aren't included either. And many abusers are never convicted of a crime at all; they may only be subject to a restraining order from a judge to protect the victim.
That's why Democrats' VAWA proposal also bars gun possession for those convicted of misdemeanor stalking offenses, as well as those who are subject to a court order related to domestic violence or stalking.
But while Americans are clamoring almost unanimously for Congress to pass more gun-safety measures, Republicans and the NRA seem more interested in letting dangerous people have guns than keeping innocent people from getting murdered.
An NRA spokeswoman whined to National Journal that VAWA is going too far by banning guns for convicted stalkers or known abusers subject to a court order. She also whined that the NRA really does care about domestic violence, because it "spends millions of dollars teaching countless Americans how not to be a victim and how to safely use firearms for self-defense."
The NRA's message to abused women is that they probably deserve to die unless they decide to buy a dangerous weapon and keep it in the home they share with their abuser.
This is the organization Republicans hope will help them save face if they vote against protecting women from violence.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.