Published: June, 2022| BWJP

You Thought the Boyfriend Loophole Was Closing… Not Exactly. 

Over the last 25 years, domestic violence advocates, organizations, and survivors have been pushing Congress to close the “boyfriend loophole.” Research has shown that approximately one-half of all intimate partner homicides involving firearms include relationships that are not covered under the current definition of domestic violence.1 

BWJP applauds Congress for passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which is an important first step. For those in a “continuous serious relationship,” this legislation closes the “boyfriend loophole” of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.  While we understand that this language will help some survivors, we realize that many survivors will be left unprotected. Congress has left it up to the courts to define the nature of a survivor’s relationship with the perpetrator. Survivors deserve to feel safe whether they are in relationships that are categorized as married, dating, casual, or complicated. 

The word “serious” is a subjective term that is difficult to legislate in ways that will protect dating violence survivors. Different generations, cultures, geographic locations, religions, identities, etc., will all define “serious” through different lenses. BWJP is concerned that survivors will now be burdened with convincing the court that their relationship is “serious” and that they should be afforded protection. Equally as important are the unintended consequences for survivors from marginalized communities.  

We encourage everyone to keep the complexity of survivors' lives at the center of all decision-making. If you want to know more about the intersection of domestic violence and firearms, please join the conversation at preventdvgunviolence.org.   

1 Susan B. Sorenson and Devan Spear, “New Data on Intimate Partner Violence and Intimate Relationships: Implications for Gun Laws and Federal Data Collection,” Preventive Medicine 107 (2018): 103–108.