Amid pressure to act on gun control, GOP lawmakers have turned to their staunchest ally, the NRA, for backup on an issue near and dear to their hearts: voting down the Violence Against Women Act.
The VAWA, which is often a bipartisan gimme of a bill, has turned into a battleground. Democrats want to mildly expand the bill to make sure people who stalk women or hit their partners can’t also be armed, and Republicans want to, well, stop that from happening.
A brief rundown of the legislative process that got us here. The VAWA was introduced in 1994, but must be periodically renewed when it expires, as it did on February 15 after a short extension following the government shutdown. This year, in the wake of several gun-violence survivors taking their own lives, some GOP senators appeared to be flirting with support for “red flag” provisions in the law. These are expansions to the existing language put in by Democrats that would allow law enforcement to confiscate firearms from people convicted of certain domestic violence offenses and stalking.
But the NRA, of course, isn’t down for that—and neither is the GOP, despite the political pressure on them. Just look at this cynical bullshit, per the National Journal (emphasis mine):
NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said the group objects because it believes the legislation could lead to firearm confiscations over misdemeanor domestic violence or stalking convictions.
“The NRA opposes domestic violence and all violent crime, and spends millions of dollars teaching countless Americans how not to be a victim and how to safely use firearms for self-defense,” Baker said. “It is a shame that some in the gun-control community treat the severity of domestic violence so trivially that they are willing to use it as a tool to advance a political agenda.”
The move comes after Republicans tried to enlist backup from the NRA to give them cover to vote against the bill, in a sign that they are feeling political pressure on the issue.
Staff from the House Judiciary Committee and GOP leadership held a conference call Monday with representatives from the NRA to urge the group to issue a key-vote alert against Democrats’ VAWA legislation before it comes up for a vote next week, according to a source on the call. On Wednesday, after this story was published, Baker denied any such call took place.
There is no excuse for this. “Red flag” provisions are a band-aid on the larger wound of gun violence across the country—a band-aid that’s so obvious and immediately helpful that there’s no reason we shouldn’t have it already. The logic, to me, is simple: if you have a proven track record of violent or aggressive behavior toward women, you should not get to own a weapon. (I’d go so far as to say if you’re violent toward other people in general, not just women, you shouldn’t have a weapon, but that’s not the issue at hand.) These points are backed up by an enormous amount of available research. One stat, for instance: abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser is a gun owner.
This is a no-brainer, and every citizen, including every gun owner, should be able to see this. If you get drunk and crash your car enough times they take away your license. Nobody fights for the rights of shitty drivers, because we understand that if you have a proven track record of misusing an incredibly dangerous machine you shouldn’t be able to do that anymore. Why is this standard not applied to guns?
Every person is capable of violence. You can argue that a gun is a tool until you are blue in the face but the tool’s use in this case is applying violence. If you are an abuser, if you are a threat, if you are a person who has applied violence unjustly to another human being and especially one who is vulnerable, you should forfeit the right to use tools that massively increase your capabilities to do so. People lose the right to vote all the time for crimes as (relatively speaking) harmless as selling weed, and the NRA is out here arguing that taking away a wife-beater’s gun is unfairly politicizing the issue? No. Over a thousand women are killed each year by their partners. Some two-thirds of those, roughly, are shot to death. That’s more than one a day. The NRA is not protecting your freedoms here. It is, as always, protecting the political power of its chosen representatives and the profits of the gun companies it serves.