Senator Baldwin Supports Introduction of Expanded Legislation to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors from Gun Violence

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is supporting new legislation to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence. The Lori Jackson – Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, introduced this week by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), includes a measure Baldwin has previously supported to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to legally obtain weapons. The expanded legislation would also establish a federal grant program to support state and local efforts to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers while they are subject to temporary or emergency restraining orders.

Current federal law protects domestic violence survivors from gun violence by preventing their abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm – but only once the court has issued a permanent restraining order. This leaves survivors unprotected exactly when they are in the most danger: when a domestic abuser first learns his or her victim has left and only a temporary restraining order is in place. Further, the current definition of “intimate partner” used to prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm includes spouses, former spouses, people with a child in common, and cohabitants. However, there are many survivors of dating violence who were never married, do not live with their abuser, and have no children.

The legislation would restrict those under temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm, and would extend protections to domestic violence survivors who have been abused by their dating partners. The bill would also establish a new grant program to help state and local governments implement policies that keep firearms out of the hands of domestic violence perpetrators while they are subject to a temporary or emergency restraining order. These policies include: requiring a domestic violence abuser to surrender or sell any firearm or ammunition in their possession; revoking their permit or license to purchase, possess or carry a firearm or ammunition while the restraining order is in effect; and requiring that a background check to be performed before any firearm or ammunition is returned to the person subject to the restraining order.

“We need to close a loophole that allows the easy access of guns for domestic abusers who shouldn’t have them. We also need to do more to support local efforts to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers while the under a restraining order. This legislation will protect domestic violence survivors whose lives are too often taken by gun violence,” said Senator Baldwin.

The most dangerous time with an abusive partner is when the survivor takes steps to leave, which steps often include petitioning for an ex parte protective order,” said Ruth Glenn, President & CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “While federal law prohibits certain respondents to final protective orders from possessing firearms, it does not protect them in the critical few days as they are escaping. Federal law also fails to protect survivors from armed dating partners, even though half of intimate partner homicides are committed by dating abusers. The Lori Jackson - Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act closes these loopholes and addresses another key element necessary for the safety of survivors - ensuring that courts require adjudicated abusers to get rid of contraband firearm and that localities have the policies and procedures in place to enforce those court orders.”

Lori Jackson was a 32-year-old mother of two who fled her home with her two children and filed for a restraining order to protect her family from her estranged husband. She moved in with her mother in Oxford, Connecticut, and the court granted her a temporary protective order while she waited for a hearing to obtain a permanent restraining order. The day before the hearing was scheduled, Lori's husband shot and killed her and injured her mother Merry Jackson using a gun he legally possessed because a permanent protective order was not yet in place. Nicolette Elias was a 46-year-old Portland mother of two young daughters who for years sought and secured restraining orders and temporary stalking orders against her estranged and abusive ex-husband. Despite all her attempts to protect herself and her daughters from a man who frequently threatened them and had access to firearms, in 2014, Nicolette was murdered by her former spouse in front of their children with a handgun that he refused to relinquish. He then forced their daughters out of the home, past their mother’s body, and kidnapped them, taking them to his own home. There, later that day, he took his own life, shooting himself in the chest in front of the police.

The Lori Jackson – Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). The legislation is endorsed by Brady, Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Oregon: Sexual Assault Support Services, Center for Hope and Safety, Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence, and Moms Demand Action.