- The “boyfriend loophole” prevents bullies from owning a gun if they lived with, were married to, or had a child with the victim.
- Evidence shows a connection between domestic violence and mass shootings.
- In 53% of mass shootings between 2009 and 2020, the assailant shot a current or former partner or family member.
One child protection expert says closing the “boyfriend loophole” in the gun safety package will have a huge impact on children’s safety.
The loophole — which prevents convicted domestic abusers from owning a gun only if they lived with, were married to, or had a child with their victim — is an aspect of the bipartisan deal senators struck after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde. , Texas, which killed 21 people and injured 17.
Patrick Perion, a child protection expert at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, told Insider that the boyfriend loophole was present in every intimate partner violence case he investigated when children and guns were involved.
Perion said that addressing this gap will have a “huge impact” on child safety because of the violence children are subjected to in these disputes. “They are witnessing this ongoing violence that is detrimental to their development,” he said.
Federal law states that convicted domestic abusers are prohibited from carrying weapons, but only if they are married, living with, or have a child with a survivor of domestic violence. Dating partners do not follow the same pattern in some states, which has become known as the “boyfriend gap.”
In recent years, Perion told Insider that guns have become more prevalent in his work. He said that in domestic violence fights where a gun is present, the reason the firearm was allowed in the home was because of the boyfriend breach.
“There were many [incidents] where there was a protection order issued against the boyfriend and he could still legally have a gun and then he threatened the children’s mother with the gun,” he said.
Everytown Research & Policy found that in at least 53% of mass shootings between 2009 and 2020, the assailant shot a current or previous intimate partner or family member during the event.
Shannon Frattaroli, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Insider that historically, there hasn’t been enough attention to the overlap between intimate partner violence and firearms.
“We have good evidence that tells us that separating people who are violent with their intimate partners from guns when they are subject to a domestic violence restraining order makes a difference in terms of victim safety,” she said.
While the bill has yet to be drafted, Frattaroli said he would like to see a broad definition of what constitutes a dating partner. Additionally, she thinks this is a chance for lawmakers to be strategic about how the law is written when it comes to domestic violence protection orders.
Fixing the loophole is not without its caveats. Stephanie Saxton, a domestic violence survivor, said her ex-husband had access to unregistered firearms.
“Obviously, there are limitations with this loophole, and this is one of them,” Saxton told Insider.
Another challenge is safely storing firearms for those who are not allowed access to them. On Monday, a man in Texas opened fire at a summer camp after stealing his wife’s gun.
The gun safety package has the support of at least 20 senators, with Democrat Chris Murphy at the forefront. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, senators stopped at the bill’s language before the weekend.