When Men Murder Women

An Analysis of 2020 Homicide Data

Section Three: Laws that Help Protect Women from Abusers

In the 1990s, two major provisions were added to federal law to prevent domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.

In 1993, the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) attached an amendment to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act to prohibit individuals who are the subject of a protective order involving domestic violence from buying or possessing firearms. The Wellstone amendment became law in 1994.1

In 1996, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) sponsored a provision prohibiting individuals with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from purchasing or possessing firearms (those with felony domestic violence convictions are already precluded from firearms possession under a general provision prohibiting firearms possession by felons).2

These laws are enforced in part by the Brady Law background checks performed on firearm transactions conducted through Federal Firearms License holders (FFLs). From November 30, 1998 to July 31, 2022, these two domestic violence prohibited categories accounted for 12 percent of rejected federal firearm transfers.3

However, not all states make the records of domestic violence protective orders and misdemeanors available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the computer system used to conduct the Brady Law background checks. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Justice has identified several common impediments to thorough checks of domestic violence records: incomplete automation; incomplete records; and, the inability to distinguish domestic violence misdemeanors from other misdemeanors. Moreover, to enhance enforcement of these life-saving measures it is important for states to adopt laws that mirror the federal laws and ensure that guns are surrendered by, or removed from the possession of, abusers.

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  1. 18 USC § 922 (g)(8).
  2. 18 USC § 922 (g)(9).
  3. Federal Denials, Reasons Why the NICS Section Denies, November 30, 1998–July 31, 2022, https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/federal_denials.pdf/view.