April 4 (UPI) — The House on Thursday voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with added measures to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
The chamber voted 263-158 in favor of the reauthorization, with 33 Republicans joining Democrats in support. One Democrat voted against it and one Republican voted present.
The 1994 law protects women from violent crimes, particularly domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It expired on Feb. 15 after the end of a short-term spending bill passed Jan. 25.
Democrats added new measures to the legislation seeking to provide stronger protections, notably closing what some called the “boyfriend loophole.” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., drafted a provision that would strip stalkers, current or former boyfriends or dating partners convicted of domestic abuse of their firearms.
“Domestic abusers are prohibited from buying or owning a firearm if they’ve ever been married to the victim, lived together or had a child together, but a dangerous ex-boyfriend or a dating partner, there’s nothing to stop them,” Dingell said Wednesday.
Republicans opposed another new provision in the law, which bans people from buying a gun if they have a misdemeanor conviction of domestic abuse or stalking. The previous version of the act included only felony convictions.
The National Rifle Association opposed the expansion of the act, saying that the offenses that could qualify as domestic abuse are “too broad and ripe for abuse” to extend the provision to stalkers, boyfriends and dating partners.
The NRA said it supported the Violence Against Women Act without the proposed changes.
The Senate has not voted on a reauthorization of the act.