Can Congress Make It Harder for Abusive Dating Partners and Stalkers to Get Guns?

WASHINGTON – A self-described “proud Republican” and gun owner urged senators to close a loophole in federal legislation that allows violent domestic abusers and stalkers to buy firearms.

Elvin Daniel, a gun owner and member of the National Rifle Association, lost his sister, Zina, when she was shot and killed by her estranged and abusive husband in 2012. While holding back his tears, he recounted his sister’s story to a Senate panel.

“Zina loved life. All she wanted to be was to be a good mother for her two daughters,” Daniel told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It has been nearly two years since Zina was murdered, and it is heartbreaking to know that our weak gun laws continue to allow dangerous abusers to buy guns without background checks.”

Ms. Daniel obtained a permanent restraining order against Radcliffe Haughton after he continued to terrorize her even after the two had separated. Under federal law, people with a permanent restraining order cannot buy or own a gun. A gun-law loophole, however, allowed Haughton to purchase a handgun through, an online site devoted to the buying, selling, and trading of firearms – all without a background check on the buyer.

“To this day, I am convinced that the shooter deliberately bought the gun from an unlicensed seller because he knew he couldn’t pass a background check - and that if he hadn’t been able to buy this gun, Zina would still be alive,” Daniel said.

He called for legislation requiring background checks for all gun sales and making it harder for “abusive dating partners and stalkers” to obtain firearms.

“I believe most gun owners would agree with me that there should be a background check done on all gun sales,” Daniel said. “As a gun owner I certainly don’t want guns to fall in the hands of criminals or abusers because it makes the rest of us look bad.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) both have introduced bills that would strengthen federal laws to keep guns away from domestic abusers.

“In most states, somebody subject to a temporary restraining order can lose access to his house, to his children and to his car, but under federal law he can still keep his guns,” Blumenthal said. “Somebody might be considered too dangerous to see their son but not too dangerous to buy a handgun.”

Blumenthal’s bill would ban guns for those who have a temporary restraining order issued against them by a judge for domestic violence. Klobuchar’s bill would prohibit physically abusive dating partners and convicted stalkers from buying or owning a gun.

Until the hearing this week, it had been more than a year since lawmakers discussed the issue of gun policy and domestic violence in the Senate.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) criticized the timing of the hearing, suggesting it was a political stunt because it was scheduled on a date closer to the November midterm elections, despite the numerous requests from domestic violence prevention groups several months ago.

“Only as we are about to head out of town with very few legislative days remaining has this hearing taken place,” he said.

Grassley, the only Republican on the committee at the hearing, said expanding the definition of prohibited people would not reduce gun homicides because there are very few stalking convictions.

“I fear that false hopes are again being raised,” he said. “In Maryland, for instance, zero were convicted of that crime last year, one in Arkansas, and five in New Mexico.  Making these offenders prohibited persons will not accomplish very much.”