By Rina Lokaj
America has a rich history with firearms. The tradition is so deeply ingrained into the fabric of America that many get defensive about anyone trying to take away their right to bear arms. However, women’s right to live should trump the right to a gun. Currently, abused women not only have to live with brutal emotional and physical pain but also with a systematic injustice and infringement on their natural right to life.
The “Boyfriend Loophole” is a legal flaw that allows abusers and convicted stalkers to legally and easily purchase a firearm. It seems impossible that a country could knowingly allow violent people to purchase guns. However, there is a reason it is called a “loophole.”
The Lautenberg Amendment states that an individual convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence cannot (legally) purchase a gun. The problem elicits the question: what qualifies as domestic violence? According to the statute, it states that a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is:
“Any state or federal misdemeanor that has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.“
While this is a step in the right direction, it often allows politicians to ignore a still-remaining and overwhelming threat. This amendment completely ignores all women who are in relationships with abusive boyfriends and may not be living with that person. Similarly, it ignores all women who have been abused by an ex-boyfriend in the past because they no longer are living with them and they have no children together.
This loophole disproportionately affects women. Over 1,600 women were murdered by men in 2015, most commonly with a gun, and an overwhelming 93% of them knew their killer. Of the women killed, more were murdered by a dating partner (48.6%) rather than a spouse (46.7%). Even if we take a look at the nonfatal instances in which a gun was used, “about 4.5 million have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun and nearly 1 million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner.” It is clear that this is not a rare occurrence.
Women do not deserve to constantly be fearing death, especially in a relationship.
The NRA is actively protesting the attempt to close the “Boyfriend Loophole.” While members of Congress are trying to extend the provision to include stalkers and current or former boyfriends or dating partners, the NRA claims that these offenses are not considered violent or threatening. They equate stalking and past abuse with “a single tweet or Facebook message” where someone is harassed. However, a tweet does not often result in a black eye and a bruised body.
Society not only allows women to be killed by these abusive men, but rights for victims are being legally withheld. It is nearly impossible for a victim of abuse to leave a toxic relationship. The fear for one’s life will coerce them into complacency until it is ultimately too late. Women cannot simply escape because they know that their abuser will find them and kill them. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, leaving an abusive relationship will cause the abuser to feel as if he is losing power. The perceived loss of control may prompt them to act even more irrationally and, thus, more dangerously than normal in order to regain dominance over their victim. They often threaten to kill their victims if they even try to leave, and oftentimes they succeed. Therefore, women have no other option but self-defense.
Nicole Addimando is one of the many women who was unfairly punished throughout her life because of “The Boyfriend Loophole.” Suffering abuse for over a decade, she finally could not take it anymore; she shot and killed her sleeping boyfriend. In the opinion of the presiding judge, Addimando could have easily just left the relationship. This misconception needs to stop; battered women cannot “easily leave” their situations.
Would we convict someone who was kidnapped for killing their kidnapper, even if they were, at that time, unarmed? No. Why is killing an abuser any different? Why should a woman have to constantly fear for her life just because she is physically incapable of fighting back? This is discrimination at its worst. No women deserve to suffer at the hands of men, and no more women deserve to go to jail for saving their own lives.
This is not a gun issue. This is an issue of life and death. No one should be pro-women dying.