The Boyfriend Loophole: An Opinion on Gun Control

Sarah Fairchild/Correspondent

The debate over gun control has run itself in circles for the past two decades, and it seems that we are no closer to agreeing on this controversial issue. But with the recent mass shooting in Sutherland, Texas, a new aspect of gun violence has arisen that both ends of the spectrum can agree upon: domestic abusers should not be allowed to purchase guns.

Mass shootings are terrifying, and the consensus is that they are impossible to predict. But are they? The support fund “Everytown for Gun Safety” performed an exhaustive study of the 156 mass shootings that unfolded between 2009 and 2016. Eighty-five of those acts (roughly fifty-four percent) were related to domestic or family violence. James Hodgkinson, Omar Mateen, Robert Lewis Dear and now David Patrick Kelley, were all reported to have committed an act of domestic violence.

Thankfully, there is legislation that will help prevent mass shootings and domestic violence without harshly infringing on our second amendment rights. The law states that domestic abusers are prohibited from buying or owning a firearm if they have ever been married to the victim, lived together, or had a child. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. This is where something called the ‘Boyfriend Loophole’ comes into play. A dangerous ex-boyfriend or dating partner has no such restriction. This issue can be traced back twenty years, to when Congress defined domestic violence in a way that focuses on spouses, cohabitating couples, and couples with children. This loophole allowed twenty-five percent of domestic abuse perpetrators to not qualify as intimate partners under the current law. What is worse, is that when Court Watch Montgomery investigated cases of domestic abuse, they found that ninety-nine percent of judges failed to tell abusers that they could no longer own guns. When responding to a domestic violence call, the last thing the police needs is a dangerous abuser armed with an illegal firearm.

So far, eight states have passed or strengthened legislation to keep guns away from domestic abusers. These are small victories, and there’s still a lot of work to be done: existing laws need to be better enforced, victims need to be taken more seriously, and the remaining thirty-seven states need to take steps to close the boyfriend loophole.

Abused individuals are the ‘canary in the coal mine’ of mass shootings. By limiting an abusers’ ability to purchase firearms, the number of tragic massacres will decrease significantly. The law should not care if the abuser holding the gun is married because the gun definitely does not.