Rep. Debbie Dingell introducing the revamped Violence Against Women Act | Photo by Robin Bravender
It’s been 25 years since Congress passed the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) but the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate still hasn’t reauthorized it.
Marking the 25th anniversary of the landmark VAWA on Sept. 13, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) introduced a resolution recognizing the intersection between misogyny, violence against women and gun violence. She and Michigan U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) have spoken about their personal experiences in advocating for VAWA. They worked with California U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who is the co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and a gun-violence survivor, to spearhead the resolution.
“I know firsthand what happens when a domestic abuser gets their hand on a gun,” Moore said. “It makes a dangerous situation even more terrifying. This resolution helps elevate the voices of the millions of women who experience violence in their lives and reiterates the urgency of action, including the passage for common-sense House-passed legislation such as H.R. 8 and H.R. 1585 that would help protect innocent lives and keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers.”
The VAWA expired in February. The U.S. House passed VAWA legislation in April to reauthorize the 1994 legislation that funds programs like rape crisis centers, shelters and legal services to victims of domestic abuse. House Democrats were joined by 33 Republicans in approving the measure.
“When I was a child, I remember the fear, the seeking help and no one responding because you didn’t acknowledge the problem or accept the reality of what happened behind closed doors,” Dingell said. “Much has changed since those days and the passage of VAWA in 1994. We have broken down stigmas and more survivors are coming out of the shadows escaping abusive situations and seeking the support they need. Protecting and expanding this has been a priority for me since coming to Congress.”
Presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) held an event with Dingell in Ann Arbor in May on VAWA. The pair visited a safe house for domestic violence survivors and Klobuchar talked about the importance of closing “the boyfriend loophole that allows domestic abusers to get guns.”U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, hasn’t taken up the bill. The powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes Dingell’s provision that makes it easier to keep guns from those convicted of domestic abuse or stalking.
Klobuchar had harsh words for McConnell and said he “somehow decided to take the side of the NRA, which isn’t on the side of women’s safety, so that is what we’re up against.”
The congresswomen noted the mass shooting last month in Dayton, Ohio, and said it “demonstrated many mass shooters exhibit violent or misogynistic tendencies toward women long before they use a gun to lay waste to human life.”
The resolution says that policy interventions must address the connection between violence against women and gun violence and calls on the U.S. Senate to immediately consider H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, H.R. 1112, the Background Checks Enhancement Act, and H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.
“People with a history of domestic violence shouldn’t have access to guns — period,” Dingell said. “The evidence is clear and convincing. The Senate must take action on the House-passed updates to VAWA — including my provisions to close loopholes that allow stalkers and abusive boyfriends to access guns.”
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