Klobuchar first introduced legislation to keep guns out of the hands of abusive dating partners in 2013
WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised the advancement of legislation to address gun violence, specifically provisions from her bipartisan legislation with Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) to close the ‘boyfriend loophole.’
“After too many of these tragedies to name, I rise with renewed hope that we are finally working together to help keep Americans safe from gun violence,” said Klobuchar. “I am particularly pleased to see that the framework that will include my bill to finally close the boyfriend loophole.”
“We know that preventing convicted domestic abusers from getting guns saves lives. We know that, because we've seen the numbers in the states that have the laws in place,” Klobuchar continued. “I’m so grateful my ten years of work leading this bill with Representative Debbie Dingell in the House has not gone for naught…It will make such a difference for saving lives.”
Since 2013, Klobuchar has led the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act to close the “boyfriend loophole” and prevent abusive dating partners convicted of domestic violence from buying or owning firearms. Dingell leads the bill in the House. A 2018 study reported that laws preventing convicted domestic abusers from owning guns led to a 23 percent decrease in violence against dating partners.
The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act is co-sponsored by 38 senators, and provisions from the bill were included in Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act, which passed the House in March 2021 with the support of 29 Republicans.
Mr. President. Thank you, Senator Cornyn for the work you're doing and working with Senator Murphy and so many other senators. You and I have done so many bills together, including the historic Save Our Stages bill which made such a difference. And I am very pleased that we are finally advancing gun safety legislation and a lot of these provisions are things that we have been working across the aisle on for many years. The boyfriend loophole, something that I introduced in 2013, Mr. President. Ten years ago, to close the boyfriend loophole. That is a part of this negotiation, part of the framework. We have so many women killed, one every fourteen hours from domestic partners. One every fourteen hours from domestic partners with guns in this country. And sadly, half of those involve dating partners, people who aren't married to someone but they're in a romantic relationship with them in some way. And the way the law works, in all but nineteen states where it is fully closed, in many of these states - you get convicted, convicted of domestic abuse, and you can still go out and buy a gun the next day. So I am pleased that we are moving forward on this provision.
This isn't the first time we heard the call to action from America when it comes to guns. We heard it after 23 people were killed at Walmart in El Paso, after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. After 59 people were killed in a country music festival, just out there on a beautiful evening enjoying the music. 59 people dead in Las Vegas. And after 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Today we hear calls for action because of more tragedies, a white supremacist murdering 10 people who were simply shopping for groceries. One guy out buying a cake for his little boy, a birthday cake for his son, who never returned. Ten people killed. The American people are demanding that we do something after the senseless murder of 19 children and two teachers who died putting their very lives up to protect those children in Uvalde, Texas. We've seen the pictures of those kids in their confirmation communion dresses, in their sports uniforms, the Converse green sneakers, the glasses, the smiles, in some photos they were actually holding awards they had just won that morning.
But today, after too many of these tragedies to name, I rise with renewed hope that we are finally working together to help keep Americans safe from gun violence. While there is so much more work to be done, the reforms outlined in the bipartisan framework, like encouraging states to enact risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws, expanding access to mental health services and supporting school violence prevention. Senator Grassley and I led that bill after Parkland that we passed with significant funding for schools. Clearly more must be done.
As I noted, I am particularly pleased to see that the framework that will include my bill to finally close the boyfriend loophole. Every year, more than 600 American women are shot to death by intimate partners. And we understandably focus on the horror of these mass shootings. But think of those numbers, 600 women shot every year from intimate partners. We know that preventing convicted domestic abusers from getting guns saves lives. We know that, because we've seen the numbers in the states that have the laws in place. Currently federal law only prohibits domestic abusers from buying a gun if they are currently or formerly married. Think about that. Currently or formerly married. Or if they ever lived together or if they have a child. That is despite the fact, as I noted, that half of these homicides, half of the women killed, are killed by dating partners. That's why in 2013, I introduced this bill to close this dangerous loophole and now I am so pleased that there is growing bipartisan support for the bill. By the way, we've shown that support in the past. It was part of the Violence Against Women Act that passed in the House and it had 29 Republicans vote for it. And that included an even more broad version of the bill which also included stalking and was broader than what we’re going to see in this bill. Obviously I support my original bill, but the fact that we are making progress to close the loophole in the states that so far have not gotten to where the other 19 are is incredibly positive. It did not pass last time when we passed the Violence Against Women Act in the Senate. Sadly it didn't make it in there. But, again, it got 29 Republican votes in the House and that just shows the growing momentum we have for this.
So I come from a state, Mr. President, with a proud tradition of hunting and fishing, like yours. I always think about my uncle Dick in his deer stand and I always ask when I introduce these proposals from closing the boyfriend loophole to putting in better background checks to doing something about better checking the records of 18 to 21-year-olds, I think does that hurt my uncle Dick in the deer stand? And, of course, the answer is, it does not. This is our moment to act. It's not just one killing, and we all know that. It's happened in every single community. Every single senator in this chamber knows of a moment where they thought, how could this happen in my community? Where they meet with the family.
What I remember the most, actually, is a case involving a police officer out of Lake City, Minnesota. He's a good cop doing his job. He was called to a domestic violence incident. And what people don't often know for police officers, these domestic violence calls can be some of the most dangerous because you have someone who is very angry, you don't know what you're walking into, it's in the moment. He gets there to the door, he has his bulletproof vest on. But the perpetrator, clearly mentally ill, had been beating up his young, young, young girlfriend, meets him with a gun, shoots him in the head. He dies. I was there for that funeral. Outpouring of support from the community. The funeral was held in the very same church where the officer and his wife and their three little kids had gathered for the nativity play at that church just a few weeks before for Christmas. And there was two little boys and a little girl. And the father had sat in the front row to watch his boys in that nativity play only a few weeks before. And the next time the family is in the church: it is the widow, the two little boys, and this little tiny girl in this dress with blue stars on it walking down the aisle of that church at his funeral. That’s a moment I won’t forget.
And it shows you how domestic abuse and those kind of cases, yes, there is one immediate victim, most likely the woman, but it's the whole family that's a victim. Kids who witness domestic abuse through their lives are so much more likely to get into crime themselves. The statistics have shown it. But it’s even more than the family. It’s the whole community. As that family who lost their dad, lost their husband would tell you if they were standing in here right now.
So, I am so pleased we are finally moving on this. I thank Senator Murphy. I thank Senator Cornyn and all those involved. I’m also so grateful my ten years of work leading this bill with Representative Debbie Dingell in the House has not gone for naught. We kept it moving. It’s probably a sign for anyone that perseverance matters in this place and I'm very pleased that it is part of the final negotiations. And it will make such a difference for saving lives. Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.