November 17, 2023

Duckworth, Durbin Join Colleagues to Introduce Legislation to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors from Gun Violence


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to introduce the Lori Jackson – Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence.

“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 by supporting these necessary protections, and I’m proud to join in introducing this vital legislation to do just that.”

“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. “We need the Lori Jackson – Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act to ensure that we close this dangerous loophole and restrict those with temporary restraining orders from purchasing a firearm.”

The Lori Jackson – Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would restrict those under emergency 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 would also establish a new grant program to help state and local governments implement policies that keep firearms out of the hands of domestic violence perpetrators while they are subject to a temporary or emergency restraining order.  These policies include: requiring a domestic violence abuser to surrender or sell any firearm or ammunition in their possession; revoking their permit or license to purchase, possess or carry a firearm or ammunition while the restraining order is in effect; and requiring a background check to be performed before any firearm or ammunition is returned to the person subject to the restraining order.

The bill is named for two women who were both shot and killed by their abusive, estranged partners even after securing emergency restraining orders: Lori Jackson, from Oxford, Connecticut; and Nicolette Elias from Portland, Oregon.

Lori Jackson was a 32-year-old mother of two who fled her home with her two children and filed for a restraining order to protect her family from her estranged husband.  She moved in with her mother in Oxford, Connecticut, and the court granted her a temporary protective order while she waited for a hearing to obtain a permanent restraining order.  The day before the hearing was scheduled, Lori's husband shot and killed her and injured her mother Merry Jackson using a gun he legally possessed because a permanent protective order was not yet in place.

Nicolette Elias was a 46-year-old Portland mother of two young daughters who for years sought and secured restraining orders and temporary stalking orders against her estranged and abusive ex-husband.  Despite all her attempts to protect herself and her daughters from a man who frequently threatened them and had access to firearms, in 2014, Nicolette was murdered by her former spouse in front of their children with a handgun that he refused to relinquish.  He then forced their daughters out of the home, past their mother’s body, and kidnapped them, taking them to his own home.  There, later that day, he took his own life, shooting himself in the chest in front of the police.

The legislation would expand on a provision in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that denies firearm sales to dating partners with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions – and not just abusers who had been married to, lived with, or had children with their victim.

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 final 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 an emergency restraining order is in place.  Further, the current definition of “intimate partner” used to prohibit respondents to restraining orders 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.

Joining Duckworth, Durbin, Blumenthal and Wyden in cosponsoring the bill are U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), John Fetterman (D-PA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

The bill is endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady, Giffords, March for Our Lives, Sandy Hook Promise, Newtown Action Alliance, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Jewish Women International.