Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is leading the push for the inclusion of closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” potentially one of the most significant provisions in the gun deal being worked out by the Senate.
“I can confirm she proposed the domestic violence provision be included in the framework,” a Sinema spokesperson told HuffPost.
Another source close to the negotiations also confirmed Sinema’s role.
Closing the loophole would prevent convicted stalkers and abusers from buying or owning guns. Current federal law bars firearm purchases by people convicted of domestic abuse against their spouse or someone with whom they’ve lived or had a child, but it does not cover dating partners or other individuals.
Nearly half of all women killed in America are murdered by a current or former intimate partner, and research shows that access to a gun makes it five times more likely an abusive partner will kill his female victim. Every month in the United States, 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, according to Everytown For Gun Safety. Women in the United States are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other wealthy nations.
And there is a strong link between domestic violence and mass shootings. Research from The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence found about two-thirds of mass shooters between 2014 and 2019 either killed a partner or family member or had a history of domestic violence. The perpetrators of the massacres of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, and of 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, both had histories of domestic violence.
A bipartisan group of 20 lawmakers is working to finalize what is likely to be the first major piece of federal gun control legislation in three decades. Sinema and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) are the lead negotiators of the proposal, which came about after the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.
Senators are still writing the legislation, but an announcement on Sunday indicated the proposal would, in addition to closing the “boyfriend loophole,” include incentives for states to pass “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves or others, enhance background checks for buyers younger than 21, invest in mental health and school safety programs, and increase penalties for “straw purchasers” who buy guns for others.
Democrats have long worked to close the loophole, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) first introducing legislation to do so in 2013. Democratic senators worked in 2021 to close the loophole as part of a successful reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, but ultimately dropped the provision in order to secure GOP support to break a filibuster.
Sinema is known for her willingness to work with Republicans to cut bipartisan deals, and if this domestic violence provision gets passed in a final deal, it would be a significant win for her approach.
“This isn’t something that’s been done overnight,” Robin Lloyd, the managing director of the gun violence prevention group Giffords, told HuffPost. “It’s taken a long time to get there to be greater recognition on the Republican side.”
Lloyd cited studies showing states that managed to close the boyfriend loophole saw a 16% drop in intimate partner homicides.
Closing the loophole is also important because Americans today are less likely to get married, are getting married later in life, and are dating for a longer period of time before marrying than in the past.
“This is so obviously a loophole, so obviously a glaring fact that our laws haven’t caught up with how Americans live,” Lloyd said. “We shouldn’t let domestic abusers have firearms, regardless of how they’re defined under federal law.”