'Boyfriend loophole' addressed in Senate gun deal: What to know

The bipartisan proposal expands who would be prevented from purchasing a gun.

June 22, 2022, 3:22 PM

Included in the anti-gun violence legislation announced Tuesday night by a bipartisan group of senators is a measure that supporters hope will help protect victims of domestic violence.

The legislation includes a change to the so-called "boyfriend loophole," which refers to a gap in the law on who can purchase guns.

Currently, federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a gun, but only if they are living with their partner, married to their partner or have a child with their partner. The law does not apply to dating partners.

Under the newly-introduced legislation, the definition has been expanded so that individuals in "serious" "dating relationships" who are convicted of domestic abuse would also be prevented from purchasing a gun.

Additionally, the bill includes language that allows those convicted of non-spousal misdemeanor domestic abuse to have their gun ownership rights restored after five years if they have a clean record.

"This is an incentive, I think for people who have made a mistake, committed domestic violence and received a misdemeanor conviction, to straighten up their act and not repeat it," Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, one of the bill's lead negotiators, said in a floor speech Tuesday.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, another lead negotiator of the bill, said, "This bill is going to make sure that no domestic abuser can purchase or own a gun. We are closing the 'boyfriend loophole.'"

Murphy also added, "To be consistent with state felony restoration rights, this legislation will allow individuals to be able to get their rights back after a period of time, but only for first-time offenders and only if there are no crimes of violence in the intervening time."

Advocates for victims of domestic violence had encouraged senators to close the loophole in the new legislation, negotiations for which began after the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting on May 24, which left 19 elementary-age students and two teachers dead.

On average, more than 12 million men and women in the United States are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner each year, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which offers free, 24/7 support for victims of domestic violence.

According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, a woman is five times more likely to be murdered when her abuser has access to a gun.

Last year, more than 17,000 people who reached out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline said firearms were a part of the abuse they experienced.

PHOTO: In this April 12, 2021, file photo, hunting rifles are displayed for sale at Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, Calif.
In this April 12, 2021, file photo, hunting rifles are displayed for sale at Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, Calif.
Bing Guan/Reuters, FILE

Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said in a statement that her organization "applauds the [senators'] work" to address domestic violence in gun legislation.

“We appreciate the senators' initiative to close this dangerous gap and protect millions more people experiencing relationship abuse in this country," she said. "We also know while this is a significant step forward, there is even more work to be done to ensure that all survivors are protected."

Exact timing for a final vote on the legislation in the Senate is not yet known but could happen toward the end of the week, with all involved hoping to approve the legislation before the two-week July 4 recess.

In addition to strengthening the ban on convicted domestic abusers possessing firearms, the bill also includes support for mental health and school security services and provides incentives to expand the federal background check system for prospective buyers under 21.

Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said they supported the bill, indicating that it could reach a super-majority in the Senate -- which is necessary to overcome any filibuster -- barring more developments.

ABC News' Adam Carlson, Rachel Scott and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

Related Topics