Preventing domestic abuse

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U.S. House of Representatives

Democrats in the House of Representatives stood up for victims of domestic violence, and said no to the National Rifle Association when the House overwhelmingly voted last week to expand the Violence against Women Act by restricting the sale of weapons to men convicted of domestic abuse, something that the gun lobby vehemently and aggressively opposes.

The new law, if successful in the Senate and signed into law by the president, would eliminate the so-called “boyfriend” loophole and prevent men who have been convicted of abusing a domestic partner from purchasing guns. The restriction would also apply to those who have been convicted of stalking or assaulting women. It also gives added protection to women who fear violence from a domestic partner or a boyfriend.

Domestic violence remains a significant problem in our country and must be eliminated. Nearly 1/3 of all women in America experience violence or stalking during their lifetimes. We cannot afford to simply turn our backs on this reality, pretending that it does not exist or that it will go away on its own.

The Violence against Women Act was initially passed in 1994 during my first term in Congress, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It allocated $1.6 billion to investigate domestic abuse. It also allocated funds to prosecute abusers. The legislation created a permanent domestic violence office in the Justice Department.

The NRA argued that the restriction placed on domestic abusers was an overreach. The gun lobby is concerned only with the sale of their products, and continues to ignore the reality that there are millions of Americans, including leaders in law enforcement, that are concerned about the safety of women.

While speaking in support of the legislation, a number of my female colleagues in the House recalled their personal experiences as victims of domestic abuse, an issue that touches women in all social classes. Victims often suffer in silence.

One member of Congress recalled her experience as a young girl when her mentally ill father frequently threatened his family with a gun that he kept in their home. She described the experience as terrorism that brought fear and harm to her mother and her siblings.

What she experienced sadly continues today in many of our homes. It is harmful and it must cease. That is why we stood against the gun lobby for the sake of women that are abused, and for the sake of all of us!

Congresswoman Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. She also chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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