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Closing the Boyfriend Loophole: New Federal Gun Legislation Brings Change to Colorado Domestic Violence Law

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Intro (What does the Act do?)

On Saturday, June 25, 2022, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (the “Act”), a bill that has significant implications for domestic violence and gun control in Colorado. In an effort to reduce gun violence, the Act clarifies what individuals need a Federal license to buy and sell firearms, imposes an enhanced background check review process, and expands community access to mental health resources to address trauma of gun violence. Additionally, the act impacts domestic violence by eliminating the “boyfriend loophole”.

The Boyfriend Loophole (Open Under Previous Federal Law)

The idea of the “boyfriend Loophole” came about because previous federal domestic violence law allowed mere boyfriends to purchase and possess firearms even after being convicted of domestic violence. More specifically, prior federal law prohibited an individual convicted of domestic violence, or issued with a domestic violence restraining order, from possessing or purchasing a firearm as long as they fit into one of three categories: (1) people who are married to the victim; (2) people who have a child with the victim; or (3) people who are currently living with the victim. Therefore, if the victim of domestic violence was a person the perpetrator was dating, or a mere “boyfriend”, the boyfriend could legally possess and purchase firearms post-conviction of domestic violence or after issuance of a domestic violence protection order.

The Boyfriend Loophole (Closed Under New Federal Law)

The Act closes the “boyfriend loophole” by removing the requirement that a domestic violence offender falls into one of the three categories. Now, any person convicted of domestic violence as part of any dating relationship, or continuous intimate or romantic relationship, is barred from purchasing or possessing a firearm for at least 5 years after conviction. Overall, the act removes guns from a larger pool of domestic violence offenders.

Colorado and the Boyfriend Loophole:

The Act impacts Colorado because Colorado law incorporates federal law as to the purchase and possession of firearms for those convicted of domestic violence crimes. Thus, prior to the Act, Colorado law allowed mere boyfriends to buy firearms despite a domestic violence conviction. Now, absent a severe reaction to the new law, Colorado law will close the Boyfriend Loophole, expending firearm restrictions to domestic violence offenders who are part of any romantic relationship.

Data and Statistics:

As we wait to see how Colorado law responds to the expanded federal gun laws, it is helpful to consider the limited data that exists regarding gun violence in domestic violence situations.

  • Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey suggests firearms are used in 3.4% of intimate partner violence events, or occurrences of domestic violence between intimate partners.
  • It is unclear how many of the 3.4% of victims to firearm use in domestic violence situations already had Domestic Violence Restraining Orders against the offender.
  • It is estimated that 3.5% of American women (or 4.5 million) have reported being threatened with a firearm by an intimate partner.
  • Studies show that laws prohibiting firearm purchases and possession for respondents to Domestic Violence Restraining Orders are associated with reductions in intimate partner homicide.

Possible Effect of the Act on Colorado Domestic Violence Statute:

Provided Colorado continues to follow federal law, any person convicted of domestic violence in Colorado where their victim is their intimate partner will not be allowed to possess or purchase firearms. In addition, any person with a domestic violence protection order issued against them by an intimate partner will not be able to possess or purchase firearms. That means fewer guns in the hands of domestic violence offenders and, in all likelihood, fewer gun violence crimes in Colorado.

Truman, J. L., & Morgan, R. (2014). Nonfatal domestic violence, 2003– 2012. Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice

Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Full report on the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence against Women Survey. Washington, D.C.: National Institutes of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Zeoli, A. M., & Webster, D. W. (2010). Effects of domestic violence policies, alcohol taxes and police staffing levels on intimate partner homicide in large US cities. Injury Prevention, 16(2), 90–95.

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