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In Congress, Domestic-Abuse Prevention Bill Takes Cue from CT


Friday, March 19, 2021   

HARTFORD, Conn. - A new part of the Violence Against Women Act, passed in the U.S. House on Wednesday, would close a loophole that has allowed people accused of domestic abuse to buy guns during the time period when a court is considering making a temporary restraining order permanent.

The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act is named after a Connecticut woman shot and killed in 2014 by her estranged husband. He was able to legally get a firearm despite a temporary restraining order.

Liza Andrews, director of public policy and communications with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said state law already includes extra protections for victims. She said she thinks it needs to expand nationwide.

"I just think the will of federally elected officials to understand that domestic-violence victims need protection right away," said Andrews, "and then, understanding that that initial moment of leaving is the most dangerous time."

Republican opposition in Congress has centered around the Act's potential infringement on the right to bear arms, and a need to fund existing abuse-prevention programs.

The reauthorization passed in the House along party lines, with Connecticut's delegation all in favor. Last year, the reauthorization bill stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Andrews said with the added protections in Connecticut law, domestic-abuse survivors have reported feeling safer after deciding to leave a partner. But financial stressors and COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have been large contributors to a spike in domestic-violence cases during the pandemic.

"So, as people went out of work, or had their hours reduced," said Andrews, "the stress of having kids home all the time, they weren't able to be in school, definitely makes things much more complicated for survivors."

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an abuser's access to a gun leads to a 400% increase in fatal incidents. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached anytime at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

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