Press Release

As Divided Supreme Court is Set to Consider Gun Ban for Domestic Violence Convictions, Senators Gillibrand & Blumenthal, Survivors & Advocates Push for Legislation to Close DV Gun Loophole

Feb 22, 2016

New York, NY – As the now-divided U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case next week that could allow many domestic abusers to keep firearms, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Richard Blumenthal, along with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., domestic violence survivors and advocates, today urged the passage of new legislation to close DV gun loopholes and prevent domestic abusers from possessing firearms.

Next Monday, February 29th, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear Voisine v. United States, a case that could determine what type of domestic abuse convictions result in the abuser being banned from possessing a firearm. An unfavorable ruling by the now-divided Supreme Court could narrow some states’ ability to prevent abusers from getting a gun and could allow many convicted domestic violence abusers to get or keep guns.

Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal are pushing for legislation that would help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. The Senators are urging congress to pass the Lori Jackson Domestic Survivor Protection Act (S. 1834), a bill to close the temporary restraining order and dating violence loopholes to keep guns out of the hands of more abusers. They are also pushing for the Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act of 2015 (S. 2198), legislation that would give states additional resources to remove firearms from domestic abusers. Both pieces of legislation were introduced by Senator Blumenthal in 2015.

“We have a now-divided Supreme Court set to hear a case next week that could allow domestic violence abusers to have guns,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is important now, more than ever, to close these DV gun loopholes and make sure guns stay out of the hands of domestic abusers. I’m pushing for common sense reforms that will close these loopholes, prevent tragedies, and stop domestic abusers from getting a gun.”‎

“The tragic truth is that guns and domestic violence make a deadly mix,” said Senator Blumenthal. “A woman is five time more likely to die in a domestic violence incident if there is a gun in the home. The most dangerous time for a woman is when she ends a relationship– telling her partner, it’s over– but she is often least protected at that time of maximum rage. Temporary court orders in many states permit abusers to retain their guns during those first weeks– until a permanent order is entered, often too late. A temporary court order failed to protect Lori Jackson–gunned down by her estranged husband– and the bill I named for her would close this gaping loophole. Even as the Supreme Court considers this issue, Congress must act to protect against this scourge.”

“When an abusive partner is permitted access to firearms, the risk that the other partner—usually a woman—will be killed increases more than fivefold,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Co-Chair of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, a national, bipartisan coalition. “Analyzing laws, judicial practices, and prosecutorial strategies throughout the U.S., gun safety experts have concluded that our laws must be changed to prohibit anyone subject to a temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm. This, in my view, is common sense. Restricting abusers’ access to firearms is a proven and effective means to reduce domestic violence homicides, and this bill builds on local successes to close dangerous gaps in the law. I thank Senator Gillibrand for her commitment to this issue and urge immediate action on the part of our federal lawmakers.”

“The reality of domestic violence is devastating enough for victims and their families; if abusers are allowed to purchase and own guns, it only embolden them to terrorize their victims. We must not allow these individuals the ability to cause even greater pain. As a survivor of gun related domestic violence, I support Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal for pushing to limit abusers ability to own and purchase guns,” said Doreen Lesane, Vice Chair of the NYC Faith-Based Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking.

“Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading victim assistance organization, congratulates Senator Gillibrand for proposing common-sense measures to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic violence abusers.  Safe Horizon responds every year to tens of thousands of victims of domestic violence, stalking and other crimes, and we see first-hand the devastating and traumatic impact these crimes have on the lives of our clients and their families.  With over 30,000 gun-related domestic violence incidents each year in the United States and statistics showing 62% of female homicide victims were married to, or in an intimate relationship with, their assailant, it’s more critical than ever that concrete steps are taken to strengthen our laws and protect our communities.  Senator Gillibrand’s bold legislative package will be enormously helpful in keeping families safe from gun violence, and we urge her colleagues in the Senate and the House to support her thoughtful proposals,” said Michael Polenberg, Vice President, Government Affairs, Safe Horizon.

“NCADV is proud to stand with Senator Gillibrand and support her and others efforts to ensure safety for domestic violence victims.  Domestic violence abusers use many tactics and tools to maintain control of victims and survivors; NCADV is very aware that often time guns are used for that purpose. If an abuser has access to a gun and domestic violence is present in the relationship, the chances of the victim being killed increases by 500%. NCADV is going to work hard with our allies and the states in 2016 to ensure comprehensive background checks, enforcement of removal of guns from those who have committed domestic violence and ensuring the victims and survivors are safe from gun violence,” says Ruth M. Glenn, Executive Director National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“The reason American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered than women in other advanced nations is because it’s so easy for a domestic abuser to get his hands on a gun. When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, the risk of homicide increases by 500%. In 2014, firearms were used in 29% of intimate partner murders in the state of NY (18% in NYC and 38% upstate). We are advocating to close loopholes in NY State law that allow someone with a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence conviction to keep their guns and to give law enforcement and family members the opportunity to have guns temporarily removed from domestic violence situations. We applaud Senator Gillibrand for addressing the even bigger loopholes in federal law that allow convicted stalkers and abusive dating partners to buy and possess guns. When harm is intended, either towards oneself or others, a gun is the most lethal choice. Congress must do its job and protect women and children by keeping that choice – a gun – away from those intent on harming our most vulnerable citizens,” said Leah Barrett, Executive Director, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.   

The Temporary Restraining Order Loophole

When a domestic violence victim first asks for help, the court can issue a temporary restraining order to immediately protect them during the few days or weeks until the court can issue a permanent restraining order. Current federal law protects domestic violence victims by preventing their abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm—but only once the court issues a permanent restraining order. The most dangerous time for a victim is when an abuser first learns that his victim has left and only a temporary order is in place. Yet during this time of heightened anger, the abuser is free to keep their firearms or even to purchase new guns. Victims are left unprotected exactly when they are in the most danger.


The Dating Violence Loophole

The current definition of ‘intimate partner’ used to define which abusers cannot purchase or possess a gun only includes abusers who live with, married, or had a child with their victim. The many victims of dating violence who do not live with or have children with their abusers are not protected.


The Lori Jackson Domestic Survivor Protection Act (S. 1834) would close these loopholes by doing the following‎:

  • Preventing an individual subject to a temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm for the duration of the temporary restraining order;
  • Expanding the definition of ‘intimate partner’ so that an individual who abuses a current or former dating partner can no longer purchase or possess a firearm;
  • Expanding the definition of ‘intimate partner’ so that an individual who abuses a current or former dating partner can no longer purchase or possess a firearm.

The Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act of 2015 (S. 2198) would give states new resources to states to remove firearms from domestic abusers and protect domestic violence victims from guns by doing the following:‎

  • Requiring them to match or exceed current federal domestic violence gun prohibitions;
  • Requiring the seizure of guns made illegal by a restraining order or domestic violence conviction;
  • Requiring state and local courts to consider at the first appearance before a magistrate whether a domestic abuser possesses a gun that has been used, or is likely to be used, against their victim, and order the seizure of those firearms;
  • Giving law enforcement the authority—to the extent allowable under the Constitution—to seize firearms when responding to domestic violence situations;
  • Providing for the safe return of seized weapons in a manner that protects all parties.

The Facts on Domestic Violence and Guns

  • An average of 760 Americans were killed with guns annually by spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners between 2006 and 2014, according to an Associated Press analysis of FBI and Florida data; more than 80 percent of those killed were women.
  • 93% of women killed by men know their murderer, a majority of whom are intimate partners, according to a September 2015 report by the‎ Violence Policy Center.
  • Domestic assaults are 12 times more likely to be fatal if a gun is involved, according to a Johns Hopkins report.
  • The presence of a gun in a home makes domestic violence five times more likely to lead to murder, according a 2014 report by Everytown for Gun Safety.
  • American women are 11 times more likely to be shot to death than women in other developed countries, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.