The House reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will close the deadly ‘boyfriend loophole' that allows convicted domestic abusers to access guns.

Washington, D.C., March 17, 2021 - Following the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, Brady calls on the U.S. Senate to immediately take up and pass this life-saving bill.

Brady President Kris Brown shared:

“It is unconscionable that the Senate failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act during the 116th Congress due to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s subservience to the gun lobby’s extremist agenda. Today, the U.S. House of Representatives acted to right that wrong. Brady is grateful to Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Jerry Nadler for introducing and stewarding this bill to today’s passage. Just as they did last week in passing H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, members of both parties voted to pass this bill in a display of unity underscoring the common-sense solutions in VAWA and the clear need to stop violence against women.

This bill will close what is known as the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ a gap in existing law that allows individuals to continue to access firearms even if they have been convicted of domestic abuse if the victim was not a spouse, former spouse, or if they do not share a child in common. Domestic abuse does not begin or end with a marriage certificate. In fact, half of women killed by intimate partners are killed by dating partners. Especially as the coronavirus pandemic has raised concerns of increases in domestic violence across the country, we need this bill.

The fixes in this bill will save lives, just as the original law has since President Joe Biden wrote and introduced it in 1994 as a U.S. Senator. Brady urges the Senate to immediately take up and pass this bill.”

About the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act marked a seachange in the way in which our nation thinks about intimate partner violence. For over 20 years, Congress has reauthorized this common-sense bill that has helped to protect Americans from domestic abuse. However, the 116th Congress and notably the U.S. Senate led by Sen. Mitch McConnell allowed VAWA to expire on December 21, 2018. In an attempt to right this wrong, VAWA was temporarily reinstated on January 25, 2019, but was again allowed to expire on February 15, 2019, again due to the gun lobby’s protestations and stranglehold on the Senate. Even so, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill reauthorizing VAWA in April 2019, which was then allowed to languish without a vote in the Senate. Today’s vote to reauthorize VAWA is overdue.

This reauthorization would close what is known as the ‘boyfriend loophole.’ Under federal law, dating partners who do not share a child in common can still legally purchase and own guns, even if they abuse their partners. Additionally, persons convicted of stalking, battery, and assault misdemeanors can still purchase and possess guns. The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act would update federal law to close these dangerous loopholes. It does not include any language regarding extreme risk laws.

About the Deadly Intersection of Firearms and Domestic Violence:

  • About every 16 hours, a woman is shot and killed by a former or current partner;

  • 54 percent of mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence;

  • Women who were killed by a spouse, intimate partner, or close relative were 7 times more likely to have lived in homes with guns;

  • 1 out of every 15 children in the U.S. is exposed to the effects of intimate partner violence yearly; and

  • When there is a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence, there is a 500% higher chance that a woman will be murdered.

If you or someone you know needs help or a safe place, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or go to to chat without having to say a word. The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE is available to victims and survivors, and can refer you to a local crisis center.

Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.


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