A new bill aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of stalkers and violent “dating partners” was filed recently in Congress.
The “Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act” is a bipartisan measure sponsored by Reps. Dan Donovan, a Republican representing Staten Island, N.Y., and Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat.
If it becomes law, the “Zero Tolerance” bill would alert the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) of people convicted of stalking or of violence against a dating partner.
“I know from experience that this legislation will save lives, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Donovan, a former prosecutor.
Said Dingell, “No woman should ever live in fear for her life or safety because of domestic violence. In communities across the country, too many families experience senseless tragedies that could have been prevented.”
The bill, filed on July 12, is so new pro-Second Amendment groups have yet to comment on it. Still, it’s going to be “one to watch” for gun advocates, judging by the buzz on their blogs and online forums, said Emily Taylor, a program lawyer for Texas & U.S. Law Shield.
“And anything mentioning the Brady law gets fast attention. However, Texans have been subject to similar provisions in the Texas Penal Code and Family Code for over a decade,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, here’s what we know now:
The bill’s sponsors say federal law currently bars people from owning guns if convicted of abusing a spouse, someone they live with, or someone with whom they’ve had a child.
But the law is “silent” about people who have abused “dating partners,” according to a fact sheet from the bill’s sponsors.
“Abuse of a dating partner is as unacceptable as domestic abuse, plain and simple,” the fact sheet says.
This year, according to the statement, five states passed laws to protect domestic violence victims: Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah.
Last year, Connecticut, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin passed similar legislation to shield victims from abusers with guns.
“The Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act would make these protections the national standard,” the release states.
“When I was district attorney, the crimes that kept me up at night were the ones that could have been prevented,” Donovan said. “There are clear warning signs—including a stalking conviction—before somebody commits serious acts of violence against a current or estranged partner. It’s common sense to keep tools of violence out of their hands.” — By Bill Miller, U.S. Law Shield contributor