Did the NRA Oppose Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in April 2019?

While the gun rights group says they support the main thrust of the Violence Against Women Act, they oppose amendments that lower the criminal threshold to bar someone from buying a gun.

  • Published 4 April 2019

Claim

In April 2019, when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, the NRA opposed the move due to the addition of amendments that would lower the criminal threshold required to bar someone from buying a gun.

Origin

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a series of laws affecting multiple areas of the Federal Code, was first signed into law in 1994. The act provided federal funds for services offered to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, created the Office on Violence Against Women within the Justice Department, enhanced the training of law enforcement officers in the area of sexual and domestic violence, and strengthened penalties for certain sexual crimes (including requiring perpetrators of sexual violence to pay restitution to their victims). VAWA has been reauthorized several times since 1994, often with adjustments or modifications.

In December 2018, authorization for the Violence Against Women Act lapsed during negotiations over ending a federal government shutdown, as reported by Washington Post at the time:

The Violence Against Women Act expired at midnight as the government shut down and temporarily cut off funding for programs that help victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and stalking. The blow to the landmark 1994 law came after multiple short-term extensions. The act was due to expire on Sept. 30 and on Dec. 7 but received a last-minute reprieve each time. Its programs are funded under the Justice Department, which is affected by the shutdown.

VAWA was briefly reauthorized on a temporary basis as part of a continuing resolution passed on 25 January 2019, but it lapsed once again three weeks later. In April 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation to reauthorize the act with modifications that, among other things, lowered the criminal threshold for barring the purchase of firearms by closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” and restricting the sale of guns to individuals convicted of stalking, as described by NPR:

The most controversial [modifications to VAWA] are new provisions to lower the criminal threshold to bar someone from buying a gun to include misdemeanor convictions of domestic abuse or stalking charges. Current law applies to felony convictions. It would also close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to expand existing firearm prohibitions to include dating partners convicted of abuse or stalking charges.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed these putative changes (which we have displayed in full below this fact check) and as a result called on lawmakers to oppose reauthorization of VAWA as proposed in a House bill:

The NRA called for a “no” vote and notified Capitol Hill offices this week that the organization was “scoring” how lawmakers vote on the bill to measure future ratings and endorsements in elections … NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said the group supports the underlying VAWA law, just not the new gun restrictions.

“The gun control lobby and anti-gun politicians are intentionally politicizing the Violence Against Women Act as a smokescreen to push their gun control agenda,” she told NPR. Gun rights activists say the new provisions are too low of a threshold to deny someone a constitutional right for the rest of their life.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, in a speech delivered on the floor of the House, highlighted a National Coalition Against Domestic Violence statistic showing that presence of a gun increased the risk of homicide in a domestic violence situations by 500%:

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 people every minute, 20 people every minute, are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. That is a tragedy and a crisis. One-in-four women experience severe intimate partner physical violence, and one-in-seven have been stalked by an intimate partner to the point at which she felt very fearful, or believed that she or someone close to her would be harmed or killed. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk – hear me – increases the risk of homicide by 500%.

That is why we aim to close gun loopholes by expanding the definition of intimate partners to include dating or former dating partners. It is also why this bill has language preventing anybody convicted of a misdemeanor crime of stalking from obtaining a gun.

On 4 April 2019, the House passed the inclusion of the gun purchase amendments to VAWA in the face of the NRA’s opposition, as reported by the New York Times:

The House … rebuffed a furious lobbying campaign by the National Rifle Association and approved a revamped Violence Against Women Act that would expand law enforcement’s ability to restrict gun purchases by convicted domestic abusers. The legislation passed easily, 263-158, but the divided vote came on what was once a broadly bipartisan measure first passed in 1994. In recent years, partisan rancor over efforts to expand the protections of the legislation have clouded efforts to renew it, and this year, the divide came over gun control.

This legislation headed to the Senate, where, the Times reported, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Joni Ernst would lead an effort to pass their version of VAWA’s reintroduction.

Changes to federal law proposed in the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2019 that the National Rifle Association opposed:

Section 921(a) of title 18, United States Code (Existing text, Deleted text, Added text):

(32) The term “intimate partner” means, with respect to a person, the spouse of the person, a former spouse of the person, an individual who is a parent of a child of the person, and an individual who cohabitates or has cohabited with the person.

(A) means, with respect to a person, the spouse of the person, a former spouse of the person, an individual who is a parent of a child of the person, and an individual who cohabitates or has cohabited with the person; and
(B) includes—
(i) a dating partner or former dating partner (as defined in section 2266); and
(ii) any other person similarly situated to a spouse who is protected by the domestic or family violence laws of the State or tribal jurisdiction in which the injury occurred or where the victim resides.”;

(33)
(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (C), the term “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” means an offense that—
(i) is a misdemeanor under Federal, State, municipal, and or Tribal  law; and
(ii) has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, intimate partner, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, intimate partner, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.

(34)
(A) the term ‘misdemeanor crime of stalking’ means an offense that—
(i) is a misdemeanor crime of stalking under Federal, State, Tribal, or municipal law; and
(ii) is a course of harassment, intimidation, or surveillance of another person that—
(I) places that person in reasonable fear of material harm to the health or safety of—
(aa) that person;
(bb) an immediate family member (as defined in section 115) of that person;
(cc) a household member of that person; or
(dd) a spouse or intimate partner of that person; or
(II) causes, attempts to cause, or would reasonably be expected to cause emotional distress to a person described in item (aa), (bb), (cc), or (dd) of subclause (I).

(B) A person shall not be considered to have been convicted of such an offense for purposes of this chapter, unless—
(i) the person was represented by counsel in the case, or knowingly and intelligently waived the right to counsel in the case; and
(ii) in the case of a prosecution for an offense described in this paragraph for which a person was entitled to a jury trial in the jurisdiction in which the case was tried, either—
(I) the case was tried by a jury; or
(II) the person knowingly and intelligently waived the right to have the case tried by a jury, by guilty plea or otherwise.

(C) A person shall not be considered to have been convicted of such an offense for purposes of this chapter if the conviction has been expunged or set aside, or is an offense for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored (if the law of the applicable jurisdiction provides for the loss of civil rights under such an offense) unless the pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.”.

Section 922 of title 18, United States Code (Existing text, Deleted textAdded text)

(1)
(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person—

(8) is subject to a court order that restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child, except that this paragraph shall only apply to a court order that—
(A) was issued after a hearing of which such person received actual notice, and at which such person had the opportunity to participate; and
(B)
(i) includes a finding that such person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such intimate partner or child; or
(ii) by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury; or
described in subsection (g)(8);
(9) has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.; or
(10) who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of stalking.”

[…]
(g) It shall be unlawful for any person —
[…]
(8) who is subject to a court order that—
(A) was issued after a hearing of which such person received actual notice, and at which such person had an opportunity to participate;
(B) restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; and
(C)
(i) includes a finding that such person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such intimate partner or child; or
(ii) by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury; or
(9) who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
(8) who is subject to a court order—
(A) that was issued—
(i) after a hearing of which such person received actual notice, and at which such person had an opportunity to participate; or
(ii) in the case of an ex parte order, relative to which notice and opportunity to be heard are provided—
(I) within the time required by State, tribal, or territorial law; and
(II) in any event within a reasonable time after the order is issued, sufficient to protect the due process rights of the person;
(B) that restrains such person from—
(i) harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; or
(ii) intimidating or dissuading a witness from testifying in court; and
(C) that—
(i) includes a finding that such person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such individual described in subparagraph (B); or
(ii) by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such individual described in subparagraph (B) that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury;

(9) who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.; or

(10) who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of stalking.

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