Key Legislative Action to Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

Here is The Latest.
During the extended government shutdown provisions of an important law expired. Efforts are in full swing to correct this.

In 1994, the landmark Violence Against Women Act was passed into law. The stated purpose of the Act was to “Create and support comprehensive, cost-effective responses to the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.” The law had been reauthorized numerous times without significant controversy, but the important provisions of the Act expired during the lengthy 35-day Government shutdown.

A common argument against reauthorization is that women are already protected under a host of other existing laws. Of course they are, but this legislation has provided key funding for numerous important programs, including everything from funding for rape crisis centers and law enforcement coordination programs to youth education and needed legal assistance for victims. This would all be gone without reauthorization, and the House acted through the passage of H.R. 1585 — 116th Congress: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019.

The successful vote in the House was not without question as the Democratic majority decided to add revisions that were opposed by the NRA and many Republicans. Included in the revised bill were provisions to lower the standard by which someone can be denied the right to purchase a gun. The bill had previously affected only those convicted of felonies, but this revision could deny someone the right to purchase a firearm for misdemeanor convictions of domestic abuse or stalking.

The revised Act also closes the “boyfriend loophole.” This extends the existing prohibitions to unmarried and dating partners convicted of abuse or stalking. The NRA contended that they fully support the basic Violence Against Women Act, but that the newly introduced firearm provisions went too far in the gun restriction arena.

I understand their point. Just like with abortion rights groups, they oppose any new restrictions as a “first step” or “slippery slope” toward abolishing a core right protected by the Constitution. At some point, however, we need to let common sense prevail, and these additional provisions simply make sense.

If even one person protected under this Act can be saved by these provisions, then any trade-offs in gun rights restrictions are worth it. Besides, this is not about accusations, this is about people actually convicted of abuse or stalking, whether they be felonies or misdemeanors. I do not think it is prudent for people convicted of these kinds of crimes to be allowed to purchase firearms.

Fortunately, the House of Representatives was able to brush off the efforts to stop reauthorization, including the new revisions, and it passed the House, 263 to 158, largely as one would expect these days, along party lines. It is worth noting however that 33 Republicans joined their colleagues on the other side of the isle in voting yes.

This is an important step in re-affirming that domestic violence is not tolerated in any form at any time and that there is and will continue to be funding for preventative programs and help for the victims of these horrible crimes.