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The NRA’s Losing Case Against Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act

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The National Rifle Association booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2018.

The Violence Against Women Act that Congress passed 25 years ago—securing additional resources explicitly for the prosecution of crimes against women—is up for reauthorization, and the National Rifle Association is opposing it over new protections for victims of domestic violence.

An extension of the VAWA currently being debated would expand so-called “red flag” gun-control measures that prohibit individuals with a history of domestic violence, including stalking and sexual assault, from possessing firearms. These measures have been adopted at the state level in the form of, among other measures, extreme risk protection orders (ERPO), which allow both families and members of law enforcement to petition for a temporary gun confiscation if someone is a danger to themselves or others.

There’s precedent for ERPO laws at the federal level. 18 U.S. Code § 922 (g) already prohibits individuals who are subject to a court order “restrain[ing] such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner” to possess a firearm. Indeed, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, established in 1993, explicitly feeds information on state-level domestic violence convictions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, albeit on a state by state basis. VAWA reauthorization would mandate states provide relevant legal information to the federal government.

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