March 17, 2021

Duckworth, Durbin, Colleagues Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Close Dangerous Loophole to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Judiciary Committee, joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and colleagues in introducing bicameral legislation to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is narrowly crafted to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to legally obtain weapons. The bill is named in memory of Lori Jackson, an Oxford, Connecticut mother of two who was tragically shot and killed by her estranged husband, who had legally obtained a handgun even though he was subject to a temporary restraining order. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to take up the legislation this week as part of its reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

“Domestic violence is all too common across this nation, and every survivor deserves to feel safe and protected,” said Duckworth. “This means closing the senseless loopholes that allow abusers with temporary restraining orders to legally access firearms. We must do more to ensure the safety of survivors and support these necessary protections, and I’m proud to join Senator Blumenthal in helping introduce this vital legislation.”

“Lori Jackson, a mother of two, was a day away from obtaining a permanent restraining order against her abusive husband when a loophole allowed her abuser to purchase a firearm, which he would later use to murder her,” Durbin said. “I am proud to once again support the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, which would close this loophole and restrict those with temporary restraining orders from purchasing a firearm.”

“It’s hard to imagine what a family goes through when something like this happens,” said Merry Jackson, Lori Jackson’s mother.  “It never goes away, it’s with you forever. But if you could save another family and kids from losing their mom, it would mean the world to me.”

The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would close dangerous loopholes in federal law, thereby protecting millions of Americans. Current federal law protects domestic violence survivors from gun violence by preventing their abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm – but only once the court has issued a permanent restraining order. This leaves survivors unprotected exactly when they are in the most danger: when a domestic abuser first learns his or her victim has left and only a temporary restraining order is in place. Further, the current definition of “intimate partner” used to prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm includes spouses, former spouses, people with a child in common, and cohabitants. However, there are many survivors of dating violence who were never married, do not live with their abuser, and have no children.

This bill would restrict those under temporary restraining orders from purchasing or possessing a firearm, and would extend protections to domestic violence survivors who have been abused by their dating partners. The bill’s provisions are a component of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, landmark legislation designed to support and protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and scheduled to be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

The legislation is supported by a number of advocacy and support groups, including National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, Sandy Hook Promise, and the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV).

“Armed domestic abusers pose a unique danger to their victims and their communities. An estimated 4.5 million American women alive today have been threatened by an abuser with a firearm; 1 million have either been shot or shot at. An abuser’s possession of a firearm is correlated with increased severity of domestic violence and with increased prevalence of stalking,” said President and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Ruth M. Glenn. “When a male abuser has access to a firearm, the likelihood that he will murder a female intimate partner increases by 400%. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is critical to keeping guns out of the hands of adjudicated abusers. It will minimize risk and save lives."

“More guns were sold in 2020 than any other year. Amid the dangerous surge in gun sales during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a safety warning on its website for the victims of domestic violence. We agree with the DOJ that increased stress and financial uncertainty during the pandemic coupled with more guns in the homes will result in increased risk for the domestic violence victims. In America, domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when the abusers have access to guns. Congress must pass Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act now to keep guns away from abusers to save lives, particularly during this prolonged unprecedented pandemic,” said Chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance Po Murray.

In addition to Duckworth, Durbin, and Blumenthal, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). U.S. Representatives Jim Himes (D-CT) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) are cosponsoring the House version of this legislation.