The Violence Against Women Act Is Up for Reauthorization. It May Not Pass

Hard to believe, but the 1994 law known as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which aids victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, has not been reauthorized, a casualty of the government shutdown. Worse, although the bill is sponsored by both a Democrat (Karen Bass), and a Republican (Brian Fitzpatrick), it may not pass the House vote which is set for this Thursday. And even if it passes the House, the Senate is likely to oppose the 2019 reauthorization bill, 3 years in the making, which includes significant expansions.

What are the obstacles?

Many Republicans who won’t support HR1585 object to a particular gun control provision that the NRA lobby hates: the one that prevents anyone convicted of abusing, assaulting, or stalking another from buying or owning firearms.

Under the 1994 law, only those convicted of domestic abuse who are or were married to, lived with, or have a child with the victim can have their guns confiscated. The new provision would expand this to include stalkers, current or former boyfriends, and dating partners.

According to recent stats reported in a Fortune Magazine article, in the United States, as many as 52 women a month are shot to death by an intimate partner. The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that about 76% of intimate partner murder victims had also been stalked by their partner and 67% had been physically abused.

Fortune Magazine’s article stated that according to The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm, and domestic violence assaults involving a gun are 12 times more likely to end in death than assaults with other weapons or physical harm. At the same time, in those states where firearms are confiscated from abusers, intimate partner homicides have dropped by 7%.

Today the House held a debate about the proposed reauthorization of VAWA. The Democrats pointed out that this expanded bill which is gender neutral would now offer protections to native Americans and immigrants, victims of stalking violence including stalking against children, bullying, and more. It also allows for funding of DNA backlogs which is necessary to convict rapists.

The Republicans (and surprisingly, they were several female congresswomen including Virginia Foxx, Debbie Lesko, Carol Miller) who oppose the bill, called it a “liberal proposal”. A few of them focused on one case in Fresno in which a transgender female apparently harassed several women in a women’s shelter, claiming that this new law will open women to violence from predators. Another congresswoman stated that prohibiting a man who committed domestic assault but was only guilty of a misdemeanor (rather than a felony) would be denying him his second amendment rights.

Republican Representative Elise Stefanik introduced her own legislation HR1741 last week which includes a 1 year reauthorization of the original Violence Against Women Act.

Stay tuned for Thursday’s vote.