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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 12:34 am | Fair 47º


Capps Reintroduces Bill to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking

As we approach Mother’s Day, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, announced Thursday that she has reintroduced legislation to strengthen protections for mothers, daughters, nieces, granddaughters and women everywhere who are victims of domestic violence and stalking by closing loopholes that allow their abusers and stalkers access to guns.

Currently, more than three times as many women are murdered with guns used by their intimate partners than are murdered by strangers using a gun, knife or any other weapon. Furthermore, dating partners were responsible for 35 percent of intimate partner homicides committed between 1976 and 2005, and the share of intimate partner homicides committed annually by current dating partners has been on the rise.

The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (H.R. 2216) would address these disturbing figures by closing several loopholes that currently exist in federal protections against gun violence for those who are victims of domestic violence or stalking.

“Existing federal laws designed to protect victims of domestic violence from gun violence are important, but gaps remain,” Capps said. “This commonsense legislation would close these loopholes to better protect victims and survivors of domestic violence and help save lives.”

“We applaud the reintroduction of the Protecting Domestic Violence and Staking Victims Act,” said Ron LeGrand, vice president of public policy for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “While federal law prohibits some perpetrators from keeping their firearms, dangerous loopholes remain for dating partners, stalkers, and abusers served with emergency temporary protective orders. Representative Capps’s bill closes these dangerous loopholes and will save countless lives when it is enacted.”

“In 2014, The Hotline conducted a survey where nearly 16 percent of the participants said their partners had access to guns, and a startling 67 percent said they believed their partner was capable of killing them,” said Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “For those individuals, it is critical that we continue to work together to strengthen the law to protect survivors from firearm violence at the point when they first seek help.”

“When a woman is killed it is most likely to be at the hands of an intimate partner with a gun,” said Toni Wellen, chair of the Santa Barbara-Based Coalition Against Gun Violence. “Firearms are used violently in multiple ways by abusers and stalkers. Deadly weapons are frequently used to intimidate. The abuser only needs to clean it in front of her, put it on the nightstand or carry it on his hip to make a point. Some abusers hold a gun to their partner’s head and pull the trigger Russian-roulette style — a story repeated hundreds of times at shelters.”

The bill has 18 original co-sponsors in Congress. It is supported by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Center for Victims of Crime, Futures Without Violence, National [email protected] Network, and Casa de Esperanza.

The bill would close loopholes in three separate areas.

» 1. Dating Partner Loophole — The current definition of ‘intimate partner,’ which is used to prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a firearm, includes spouses, former spouses, parents, those who share a child, and cohabitants, but excludes victims in a dating relationship with an abuser. The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act would expand the definition of ‘intimate partner’ to include current and former dating partners, ending this arbitrary disparity.

» 2. Temporary Restraining Order Loophole — When a domestic violence victim asks a court for protection against an abuser, the first step is commonly known as a temporary restraining order. These are granted when the court determines that the victim is in danger and that waiting to schedule a full hearing to provide a permanent restraining order would be detrimental to the victim’s safety. Current federal law protects domestic violence victims by preventing their abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm — but only once the court has issued a permanent restraining order. This delay in protection leaves victims unguarded at exactly when they are in the most danger — in the hours and days after a domestic abuser first learns that their partner is separating from them. Crucially, it is often these temporary restraining orders that serve as the first notification to an abuser that their partner is ending their relationship, often leading to additional violence.

The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act would put temporary restraining orders on par with permanent restraining orders, by temporarily preventing an individual subject to it from purchasing or possessing a firearm for the duration of the temporary restraining order. The bill would also ensure due process for the abuser, ensuring that this action could only be taken if they are given notice and an opportunity to be heard in court within a reasonable time period. The court must also find that they represent a threat to another person’s physical safety. These protections would balance the safety of the victim during the times when they are most at risk and the due process rights of the abuser.

» 3. Stalking Loophole — Currently, federal law fails to protect victims of stalking from future gun violence. Stalking involves a course of harassing conduct against a person that is designed to put them in fear for their personal safety. Stalking is a serious criminal matter because it is often the first step in an escalating pattern of criminal behavior that culminates in physical violence. Individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors are already prohibited from gun ownership under federal law. The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act would bring stalking in line with other domestic violence crimes in this manner.

— Chris Meagher is a press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps.

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