Congress Passes Hirono Measure to Close Domestic Violence Gun Loophole

August 1, 2018, 3:38 PM HST (Updated August 1, 2018, 3:38 PM)
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Sen. Mazie Hirono. Still photo taken from Sen. Hirono video.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono’s Military Domestic Violence Reporting Enhancement Act, which would close a dangerous loophole in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that enables convicted abusers to purchase firearms, was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference committee report that was passed by the Senate 87-10 on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. The NDAA was passed by the House last month, and now goes to the President for his signature.

“Last November’s mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas exposed a dangerous loophole in how military domestic violence convictions are entered into the NICS system,” Sen. Hirono said. “While we still have a lot more to do to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our country, this measure closes this loophole and will keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders.”

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“Domestic violence is domestic violence, and all convictions for this inexcusable crime should be recorded in the national background check system,” John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety said. “We applaud Congress for taking action to close the Sutherland Springs loophole and prevent anyone convicted of domestic abuse from accessing guns.”

“Making sure people who intend to do others harm like domestic abusers don’t have access to guns is more than common sense – as we saw in Sutherland Springs last year, it’s an issue of national security,” Retired Marine Corps Combat veteran Kyleanne Hunter, Vice President of Programs at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence and co-founder of Veterans for Gun Reform said. “At Brady we were proud to support bipartisan legislation to improve the nation’s background check system in the wake of the Sutherland Springs shooting, despite the failed attempt by some lawmakers to co-opt this legislation with dangerous concealed carry language on behalf of the gun lobby. Sen. Hirono’s bill, coupled with the FIX NICS law passed earlier this year, will further improve the military and Defense Department’s ability to report dangerous, prohibited persons to NICS, and contribute to the security of the United States. We applaud and thank the senator for her leadership on this crucial issue.”

Federal civilian law prohibits those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from purchasing firearms. However, under the current UCMJ, which is applied to military personnel, there is no classification for domestic violence. Therefore, cases that might otherwise have been classified as domestic violence were often categorized more generally as an assault. This difference in terminology spurred confusion as to which convictions in the military are actually domestic violence convictions that must be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks (NICS) system. The Hirono measure creates a UCMJ charge of domestic violence.

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