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Letter to the editor: Sen. Ernst’s Violence Against Women Act reauthorization proposal doesn’t go far enough

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Sen. Joni Ernst speaks on the U.S. Senate floor about her proposal to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Nov. 20, 2019. — video still

By Liz O’Hara, volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

Nearly 1 million American women alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. In an average month, 52 of them are shot and killed. Between 2013 and 2017, 37 Iowa women were killed by intimate partners; two thirds of these women were killed by dating partners as opposed to spouses.

The House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which directly addresses this reality, by closing what is known as the “boyfriend loophole” in current law. The boyfriend loophole allows abusive dating partners to acquire and keep firearms after an assault conviction, or while under a restraining order, simply because they are unmarried and thus are not specifically covered. Closing the loophole means that dating partners who have a domestic assault conviction or restraining order would be prohibited from acquiring a firearm, with notification to law enforcement of failed background checks.

Not surprisingly, the National Rifle Association opposed closing the loophole during debate in the House. The version of VAWA reauthorization which Sen. Joni Ernst introduced in the Senate lacks the protections for women from violence by dating partners. Senate Republicans seem to place a higher value on the Second Amendment rights of stalkers and abusers than on protections for the women they threaten.

At a gun control rally on the UI Pentacrest, local Moms Demand Action volunteer Rebecca Truszkowski takes a photo from the stage to tweet to Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst. Saturday, Aug. 18, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village


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