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An Open Letter to Congress and the Media

By Ruth M. Glenn, NCADV President/CEO

As a survivor of domestic violence that included gun violence, and as the President/CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), it is my obligation to correct untruths about an issue I know very well, both professionally and personally - the intersection between domestic violence and firearms. Despite the outrageous and appalling claims of gun industry lobbyists and lawmakers, protecting victims of abuse and stalking from abusers with guns is neither “controversial” nor “a tool to advance a political agenda.” It is imperative as well as the responsibility of our nation and its citizens and representatives to provide every opportunity for safety to those who are experiencing domestic violence.   

 

Here’s what H.R. 1585, the bipartisan bill put forth this legislative session to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), actually does:

  • It prohibits adjudicated dating abusers from purchasing or possessing guns;
  • It prohibits adjudicated stalkers from purchasing or possessing guns;
  • It prohibits adjudicated respondents to ex parte domestic violence protective orders from purchasing or possessing guns; and
  • It provides extensive due process protections for the person accused of committing domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.

 

In 1994 and 1996, understanding the unique danger domestic abusers pose to their victims and their communities, Congress prohibited first abusers subject to final protective orders and then abusers convicted of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing firearms. Both of these measures, which were a reflection of a time when we did not recognize the severity and extent of dating violence, apply only to current or former spouses, current or former cohabitants, and people who share a child in common. H.R.1585 updates anachronistic definitions to ensure all victims of intimate partner violence are protected.

 

Current law also does not prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor stalking from purchasing or possessing firearms.. The gun industry lobby doesn’t think stalking is a serious enough crime to justify removing access to guns. I’m here to tell you that stalking is a sign that a perpetrator is escalating in violence. We know that 76% of women who were murdered by an intimate partner were stalked first, and 85% of women who survived murder attempts were stalked. And before you dismiss these statistics as politically motivated falsehoods, you should know that 85% figure includes me.

 

Here’s what H.R.1585 DOES NOT include: so-called “red flag” laws (the preferred term is ‘extreme risk orders’). Some media outlets and lawmakers conflate extreme risk orders, which temporarily remove firearms from people experiencing temporary crises, with laws prohibiting adjudicated domestic abusers from possessing firearms.  As we stated in our testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee for their hearing on extreme risk orders, they are not interchangeable, and VAWA is not the appropriate vehicle for extreme risk orders.  NCADV recently submitted testimony on this very topic.

 

H.R.1585 is not about guns; VAWA is about the safety of victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. It is about investing in prevention, providing services to victims, and ensuring survivors are not trapped in abusive situations because they have nowhere to go and no money. It is about ending impunity for non-Natives who prey on and sexually assault Native women on tribal lands, and it is about promoting justice. Despite what the gun lobby may say or do, don’t let them fool you -- they are more invested in protecting convicted abusers and stalkers than they are in protecting survivors and victims of domestic violence. I urge every member of the House of Representatives to vote yes on H.R.1585 and no on the motion to recommit, and for the Senate to introduce and vote on a companion bill that mirrors the House’s bill. Show courage and take a stand for the safety and well-being of victims and survivors, their families and communities, and our nation as a whole. Be outraged.

Posted by Lynn Brewer-Muse at 9:15 AM
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