When the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Thursday, five representatives from Louisiana were among the 157 Republicans to vote against it — despite the state's high rates of domestic violence.
The split vote stemmed over a proposed amendment to the law some are calling “the boyfriend loophole.”
The current law bars convicted abusers who are married, live with or have children with the victim from owning a firearm. The amendment would extend that section of the law to apply to all intimate partners found guilty of abuse and stalking.
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The National Rifle Administration (NRA) soon came out in opposition of the renewal as amended, urging lawmakers to vote against it on the grounds that it would lower the standard required to prohibit a person from owning a gun.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Reps. Garret Graves, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson and Ralph Abraham — all Republicans — voted against reauthorizing VAWA. Cedric Richmond, Louisiana’s sole Democratic representative, voted for it.
According to The Violence Policy Center, which advocates for gun control, Louisiana had the second highest rate of women killed by men of all states in 2016.
The New Orleans chapter of Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR), a nonprofit working with domestic and sexual violence survivors, said that if the act is not reauthorized, the organization would lose 40 percent of its funding, rendering it “unable to function.”
Congress has renewed the act — which allots federal dollars to resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence, around every five years since 1994 — often with amendments.
Past amendments to the act have included the extension of protections to same-sex couples.
One House Democrat voted against reauthorization of the act, while 33 House Republicans voted for it. Next, the bill goes to the majority-Republican U.S. Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he is in favor of renewing the act as it was last year — without amendments.
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