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With Domestic Violence Surging Amid Pandemic, Shaheen & Hassan Help Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Close Dangerous Loophole to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors

(Washington, DC) – As reports of domestic violence increase across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Jim Himes (D-CT) in introducing strongly-supported bicameral legislation to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is narrowly crafted to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to legally obtain weapons. The bill is named in memory of Lori Jackson, an Oxford, Connecticut mother of two who was tragically shot and killed by her estranged husband, who had legally obtained a handgun even though he was subject to a temporary restraining order.

“It’s shameful that there’s still a loophole in the law that allows domestic abusers to access firearms. It’s past time for Congress to right this wrong so we can stop another tragedy before it occurs,” said Senator Shaheen. “The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is common-sense legislation that will help save lives. It’s time for Congress to get this done and amend the law to provide survivors with the protection they need and deserve.”

“After fleeing an abusive partner and filing a restraining order, the last thing that a survivor of domestic abuse should need to worry about is that their partner will take revenge with a gun that they are legally allowed to own or purchase,” said Senator Hassan. “This commonsense bill will close a glaring loophole that allows abusers to purchase or possess a firearm and help prevent more senseless acts of gun violence against survivors.”  

“You don’t realize what a family goes through when something like this happens. It doesn’t go away, it’s with you forever," said Merry Jackson, Lori Jackson’s mother. "But if you could save another family, a couple of kids, from not losing their mom, it would mean the world to me.”

The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would close dangerous loopholes in federal law, thereby protecting millions of Americans. Current federal law protects domestic violence survivors from gun violence by preventing their abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm – but only once the court has issued a permanent restraining order. This leaves survivors unprotected exactly when they are in the most danger: when a domestic abuser first learns the victim has left and only a temporary restraining order is in place. Further, the current definition of ‘intimate partner’ used to prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm includes spouses, former spouses, people with a child in common, and cohabitants. However, there are many survivors of dating violence who were never married, do not live with their abuser, and have no children.

This bill would restrict those under a temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm, and would extend protections to domestic violence survivors who have been abused by their dating partners. This bill’s provisions are a component of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act, landmark legislation designed to support and protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, which continues to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The full text of the Senate legislation can be found here and the one pager can be found here.

The legislation is supported by a number of advocacy and support groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, Brady and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Throughout the pandemic, Shaheen and Hassan have been actively working with the entire New Hampshire congressional delegation to provide more resources and services to domestic violence victims nationwide. Senators Shaheen and Hassan have called on Congressional leadership multiple times to include additional funding to support the victims of family violence, domestic violence and dating violence in the fourth COVID-19 legislative package.

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to establish basic rights and protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Shaheen previously helped introduce the Domestic Violence Loophole Closure Act with U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The bipartisan legislation would close the background check loophole exploited by the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooter in 2017 and ensure that any individual convicted of domestic violence – whether it is in criminal or military court – cannot legally purchase a firearm. Her bill, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, was signed into law in 2016 and created the first federally codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors and for the first time allowed survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. Last year, Shaheen introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act to build on the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act by incentivizing states to pass legislation that guarantees the survivors rights included in the federal legislation. For the third year in a row, Senator Shaheen – the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Office on Violence Against Women— successfully added the highest funding amount ever for Violence Against Women Act programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 government funding.