Legislation would build on Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provisions by preventing convicted stalkers from purchasing firearms

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced updated bipartisan, bicameral legislation to strengthen provisions closing the ‘boyfriend loophole.’ The Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Survivors Act prevents convicted stalkers  and all former dating partners convicted of a domestic violence offense  from buying or owning firearms, regardless of when the relationship occurred.  Klobuchar, Dingell and Fitzpatrick’s provisions to ensure recent dating partners convicted of domestic violence face the same gun ownership restrictions as similarly situated spouses were signed into law last year as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

“Last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act included provisions from my bill to close the boyfriend loophole, but there is still more we need to do to address gun violence and keep firearms out of the hands of abusive dating partners and convicted stalkers,” said Klobuchar. “As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the serious emotional and physical toll stalking takes on victims, especially when guns are involved. By preventing convicted stalkers from purchasing guns, our common sense legislation will protect victims and help save lives.” 

“A week ago today, the 5th Circuit Court struck down a decades-old law preventing individuals with domestic violence protection orders from possessing firearms. We must be clear: this extreme and dangerous decision puts lives in danger. Equally disturbing, federal law still includes a “boyfriend loophole” that allows abusive dating partners subject to protection orders and convicted stalkers to access firearms,” said Dingell. “I know this fear all too well. Growing up, I lived in a house with a man – my father – who should not have had access to a gun. I remember the terror my siblings and I felt as we hid from him in the closet and in fear of him using it to hurt my mother. No child, spouse, or partner should have to experience the trauma my family did. I am proud to introduce the Strengthening Protections for Domestic Abuse and Stalking Survivors Act to close this loophole once and for all. The legislation will ensure abusive dating partners subject to protection orders and convicted stalkers cannot get their hands on a firearm. Perpetrators of violence – including dating partners – should not be able to access a firearm, and I will not stop fighting until we can deliver on this promise.”

“Domestic abusers should never be allowed access to firearms, period,” said Fitzpatrick. “The current intimate partner loophole allows violent domestic abusers to purchase firearms, and this bipartisan legislation takes that ability away. I’m proud to work across the aisle on this crucial legislation that stands up for victims.”

The Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Survivors Act would:

  • Prevent those convicted of certain stalking offenses from purchasing firearms;
  • Clarify that abusive dating partners subject to certain court orders are treated the same as an abusive spouse;
  • Update the definition of “dating relationship” for purposes of federal firearm prohibitions to include “individuals who have or have had a continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature,” regardless of when the relationship occurred. The law currently requires that the dating relationship is “recent,” which could exclude abusers convicted of domestic violence against partners from a prior relationship.

The legislation is endorsed by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Giffords; YWCA USA; Jewish Women International (JWI); National Network to End Domestic Violence; Everytown for Gun Safety; Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense Fund; National Alliance to End Sexual Violence; and The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

In addition to Klobuchar, the legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). In the House, the legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

Since 2013, Klobuchar has led efforts to close the ‘boyfriend loophole.’ Provisions from Klobuchar’s Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act were signed into law last summer as part of the landmark Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

“Domestic violence and access to guns is a deadly combination for women and families,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “While the Fifth Circuit is eroding protections for those with domestic violence restraining orders, we must redouble our efforts to save lives from senseless and preventable violence. We’re proud to stand in strong support of Representative Dingell’s efforts and are grateful for her unwavering commitment to this issue.”

“Gaps in federal law continue to enable domestic abusers and stalkers access to firearms that are often used to intimidate, injure, and kill their victims. While Congress has made significant strides to protect victims of domestic violence, deadly loopholes still leave many victims unprotected from their abusers. Giffords applauds Senator Klobuchar and Representatives Debbie Dingell, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Brian Fitzpatrick for introducing the Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act and thanks them for their steadfast leadership on this issue," said Adzi Vokhiwa, Giffords Federal Affairs Director.

“Considering that half of all intimate partner homicides are committed by dating partners, closing the ‘boyfriend loophole’ is a common-sense solution that is long past due,” said YWCA USA CEO Margaret Mitchell. “As the largest network of domestic violence and sexual assault service providers, YWCA sees every day the very real threat of firearms as tools of power and coercive control in intimate relationships, and far too often, as a means of killing. The Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Survivors Act of 2022 takes simple and much-needed steps to keep guns out of the hands of stalkers and dating partners who are adjudicated abusers – just as federal law already restricts such access by adjudicated abusers who are current or former spouses, cohabitants, or people who share a child in common.  urge the House to pass this legislation without delay.”

 “The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is pleased to endorse the bipartisan Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Survivors Act of 2023, which would fully close the ‘dating partner loophole.’  This important legislation prevents dating partners, who are subject to domestic violence protection orders, and convicted stalkers from having access to firearms.  For far too long, this dangerous loophole in the law has left guns in the hands of abusers, putting survivors, their families, and communities in jeopardy. This bill reflects the lived experiences of survivors of dating violence and will make our nation safer for all of us,” said Deborah J. Vagins, NNEDV President and CEO.

"Today's introduction of the Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Survivors Act of 2023 builds upon the progress made in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. It remains a critical public safety issue to ensure that dating partners subject to final domestic violence protective orders and those convicted of stalking are subject to the same restrictions as spouses and dating partners convicted of domestic violence. This bill takes the next vital step to reduce domestic violence homicides. We urge its swift passage; survivors cannot wait any longer,” said Jennifer Becker, Legal Director of Legal Momentum, the Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“We applaud this bipartisan effort to close the loophole around dating. We know that individuals in dating relationships are at higher risk for intimate partner violence and so should at least have access to the same protections as those who are married or live with a partner. This legislation will help the one in three Latinas (34.4 %) that statistically will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime and one in twelve Latinas (8.6%) that has experienced IPV in the previous 12 months,” said Patricia Tototzintle, President and chief executive officer of Esperanza United (formerly Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network).

“At a time when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals seems intent on removing life-saving protections for victims and survivors of domestic violence, we are grateful to see Members of Congress taking bipartisan action to protect survivors from the lethal threat of firearms,” said Ruth M. Glenn, President of Public Affairs for NCADV, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “Thank you to Representatives Dingell, Jackson Lee, and Fitzpatrick, and to Senator Klobuchar for being constant champions for victims, survivors, and the advocates and programs that support them!”

“Everyday, survivors call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and share ways that firearms are used by abusive partners to threaten, coerce, and control. Not to mention the thousands of survivors that have lost their lives because of firearms,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of The Hotline. “We applaud the incredible dedication of these Members of Congress to finally close this loophole and keep all survivors safe from gun violence and urge Congress to act.”

“I applaud the introduction of the Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Survivors Act of 2023. It is more important than ever to fully close the stalking and “boyfriend” loopholes in federal law. We know that abusers are extremely dangerous when they're armed – to their current and former partners and to the larger communities. This is a commonsense gun reform that would save lives,” said Meredith Jacobs, CEO of Jewish Women International (JWI).