On Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.) and Rep. Dan Donovan (R–N.Y.) announced a piece of bipartisan legislation — the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act. The bill increases protections for those who have been domestically abused or subject to violence or stalking. It prevents people who have abused dating partners from purchasing or possessing firearms; it prevents convicted stalkers from purchasing or possessing firearms, as well.
Dingell said the bill brings federal law into compliance with some state laws. She also noted the importance of the bill being bipartisan.
“I know if any bill I introduce has a chance of passing, it’s got to have a bipartisan sponsor,” she said. “This is one of the few gun bills that has Republicans and Democrats on it. I think that right now people understand the importance of zero tolerance for these kinds of issues and that the legislation makes it really, really clear that convicted stalkers shouldn’t be able to purchase firearms. It closes loopholes in the current law.”
Dingell said a stalking conviction is an accurate predictor of whether that person is likely to commit some act of violence in the future.
One in six women has experienced stalking in her life, 6.6 million people are stalked annually in the United States and 66 percent of female stalking victims were stalked by someone with whom they were or had been in a relationship; additionally 76 percent of women murdered and 85 percent of women who survive a murder attempt by a current or former partner experienced stalking in the year prior to the incident.
Additionally, according to Dingell, there is a particularly high incidence of stalking experienced by young people. Out of every 1,000 people, ages 18 and 19, 30 were stalked; similarly, out of every 1,000 people, ages 20 to 24, 28 were stalked.
“It happens to more than they realize,” she said. “One in six women have experienced stalking victimization during their lifetime. I think for many it happens when you’re in college or you’re young or you’re in the dating period.”
Currently, federal law forbids those convicted of abusing a spouse, a live-in partner or someone they have a child with from getting guns; the law doesn’t address people who have abused dating partners.
There has been more nonfatal violence against women by a current or former boyfriend than by a spouse — 39 percent compared to 25 percent, while 48.6 percent of all intimate partner homicides were committed by a dating partner.
“A lot of people that are in relationships, that have been abused by their dating partner, and they’ve been stalked when they break up, and that partner has access to gun — that person lives in total fear,” Dingell said.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives until after she survived an assassination attempt in 2011, co-founded Americans for Responsible Solutions to prevent gun violence and allow for rightful gun ownership. In a press release, she commended the bill for its bipartisan nature and objective.
“Guns and domestic violence are a deadly, tragic mix,” Giffords said. “Every 16 hours a woman is fatally shot in our country by an ex-spouse or intimate partner. As a nation, we should be outraged. This bill won’t stop every act of violence, but it does represent a major step forward that will help make women and their families safer. I applaud Senator Klobuchar, Congresswoman Dingell and Congressman Donovan for putting politics aside and introducing a bipartisan proposal. I urge my former colleagues in Congress to support this responsible legislation to help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and make our country a safer place to live.”
Forty new laws have been enacted at the state level since 2008 addressing access to guns, in conjunction with domestic violence. Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah have passed laws to protect victims of domestic violence in 2017.