The House of Representatives passed the Violence Against Women Act despite massive opposition from Republicans.
Given the choice between preventing women from being murdered by their partners, or fighting for domestic abusers to keep their guns, Republicans overwhelmingly sided with domestic abusers.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by a vote of 263-158. Only 33 Republicans voted in support of the bill, while one Democrat voted against it.
The bill provides resources and strengthens legal protections for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault. In addition, the reauthorization this year contains a provision making it harder for known domestic abusers to obtain guns.
"The No. 1 way that women are being killed with guns is by their beloveds, their boyfriends, their significant others," Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), a gun safety advocate who won election to Congress in November, told the New York Times before the vote.
But for Republicans, denying domestic abusers access to firearms was so unacceptable that they begged the NRA to get involved and give the GOP cover for opposing VAWA — something the NRA was happy to do.
The NRA, an extremist pro-gun lobby, announced it will "score" the bill on its annual legislative scorecard, meaning that members of Congress who vote for it will receive a lower rating from the group. For many radical pro-gun members of Congress, maintaining a "100%" rating from the NRA is important.
"Our lives hang in the balance, but the NRA would rather protect domestic abusers' access to guns than protect abused women," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement before the vote.
Abused women are five times more likely to be murdered if their abuser owns a gun. In addition, an alarmingly high number of mass shooters have a history of domestic violence or stalking, and most "mass shootings" in the U.S. are really acts of domestic violence.
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 bill not only closes the boyfriend loophole, but 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.
In the past, the Violence Against Women Act normally garnered bipartisan support. But in 2013, Republicans objected to extending protections to members of the LGBTQ community, as well as Native American women and immigrant women.
Some of the same bigoted objections about protecting LGBTQ people, especially transgender women, were also on display this year.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.