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Women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries. This data likely undercounts the phenomenon because in many other cases law enforcement could not confirm whether a shooter and victim were intimately involved.Domestic violence in America is to a significant degree a problem of gun violence. And research by Everytown for Gun Safety establishes that this is also true for mass shootings: in 57 percent of the mass shootings between January 2009 and June 2014, the perpetrator killed an intimate partner or family member.

Fortunately, legislative momentum for stronger state domestic violence laws is growing—among policy makers from both major parties. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia also have laws prohibiting people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from buying or possessing guns, as shown in the Appendix. Since its inception in 1998, NICS has stopped over 2.2 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers, including hundreds of thousands of domestic abusers. Between 19, state and local agencies issued a total of 945,915 denials, and it is estimated they have issued 225,000 denials in the three years since data was last released. 2013, Background Checks for Firearms Transfers, 2010–Statistical Tables, Feb. For agencies that reported reasons for these denials, 13.2 percent were denials for domestic violence reasons — which would represent another 155,000 domestic violence denials.

In just the first half of 2014, for example, bipartisan coalitions of legislators passed bills in Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Washington State that prohibit domestic abusers from purchasing guns. The law defines “intimate partner” to cover spouses and former spouses, someone who lives with or has lived with the abuser, or someone who is the parent of a child of the abuser. Another nine states expressly authorize—but do not require—courts to include firearm prohibitions in restraining orders. Convictions for domestic violence misdemeanors are the third leading basis for dealers to deny gun sales after running a NICS check—trailing only felony convictions and arrest warrants—and overall, it is estimated that approximately 300,000 gun sales have been blocked because the would-be purchaser had an MCDV conviction or was subject to a prohibiting domestic violence restraining order. Department of Justice, FBI, NICS Denials: Reasons Why the NICS Section Denies, Nov. Thus, the background check system has likely issued close to 300,000 denials due to domestic violence-related criteria since its inception.

Because the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is the period immediately after she leaves her abuser—and because many women take out protective orders against their batterers when they leave an abusive relationship—federal law protects women by prohibiting abusers subject to restraining orders from buying or owning guns. These states are Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin. Between the inception of the NICS system in 1998 and April 30, 2014, 108,462 gun sales were federally denied due to a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence conviction, and 46,122 gun sales were federally denied due to restraining or protection orders for domestic violence, making a total of 154,584 federal denials related to domestic violence. Despite their proven record of keeping guns out of domestic abusers’ hands, our laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence offenders have several dangerous gaps.

Congress added this provision when it first passed the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) in 1994.18 U. Vermont law does not expressly authorize courts issuing restraining orders to prohibit firearm possession, but Vermont courts have the authority to prohibit firearm possession under a statute that allows restraining orders to include any provisions “necessary to protect” an abuse victim. The domestic violence prohibitors on gun sales are enforced through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”). Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System, Fact Sheet, at P; see also Politi Fact, “Passing a federal firearms ‘background check through the NICS database . The categories of prohibited abusers under federal law are too narrowly drawn and do not reach stalkers or dating partners, even though dating partners are responsible for more domestic violence gun murders than spouses.

The federal MCDV and restraining order prohibitors apply to abusers who are currently or formerly married to their victims, who live with or formerly lived with their victims, or who are parents of children with their victims.

But federal law does The federal definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence applies to a current and former spouse, parent or guardian, cohabitator, or someone “similarly situated” to a spouse, parent, or guardian.Crimes classified as misdemeanors are only prohibiting if they are punishable by imprisonment of over two years. A parallel provision of the law criminalized knowingly selling a gun or ammunition to anyone whom the seller knows or has reason to believe has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence—or “MCDV”. There is no constitutional right to counsel in misdemeanor cases, and, according to a 2001 Congressional Research Service report, “it has been surmised that many domestic violence misdemeanants appeared without representation and likely did not make a knowing and intelligent waiver of that right, thereby significantly limit[ing] the universe of individuals against whom the possession ban may be enforced.” CRS, “Firearms Prohibitions and Domestic Violence Convictions: The Lautenberg Amendment,” Report RL31143, Oct. The remaining states do not prohibit gun ownership by all abusers who are barred under federal law, which can create serious enforcement challenges.MCDVs are misdemeanors that have, as an element, “the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon” and that are committed by a current or former spouse, parent or guardian, someone who lives with the victim, or someone who is “similarly situated” to a spouse, parent, or guardian.18 U. Even if a domestic abuser is barred by federal law from owning a gun, if state law does not include a similar prohibition, state or local prosecutors cannot bring state gun charges against the abuser. § 921(a)(32) and (c) either include a finding that the abuser represents a credible threat to the physical safety of the intimate partner or child, or explicitly prohibit the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury to the intimate partner or child. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Feb.Before completing a gun sale, a federally licensed gun dealer must ask the gun buyer to show a photo ID and complete a simple form with basic identifying information; then the dealer must run a background check through NICS. While some state prohibitors go beyond federal law to reach dating partners, other states lack domestic violence gun prohibitions.If NICS reports that the potential purchaser is prohibited, the sale is denied; if no prohibition is reported, the sale is completed. And guns offered by unlicensed sellers are exempt from the federal background check requirement, leaving a gaping loophole through which domestic abusers can easily buy guns in most states.When these laws are on the books and enforced properly, they save lives. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2011, available at Fe (excludes New York due to incomplete data); Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Supplementary Homicide Report, 2010.

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