All eyes were on seven Democratic candidates as they continued to fight it out for the party nomination in the South Carolina debate on Tuesday. Tensions are running high as presidential hopefuls pull out receipts on their fellow candidates’ voting history, policy support, and relevant experience. Even as they agree that one of the next steps in ending gun violence is to close the "boyfriend loophole," former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar duked it out over the bill that both candidates claimed they penned.
About half an hour into the debate, moderator Gayle King opened up the floor to Biden to discuss his plans to combat gun violence in the United States. Biden spoke about his history with taking on the National Rifle Association before Klobuchar explained why she would be the most qualified candidate to promote lasting change in this arena.
“The way we do it is having someone leading the ticket from a part of the country that we actually need the votes,” said the Minnesota senator. “So I have long supported the assault weapon band. I am the author of the bill to close the boyfriend loophole that says that domestic abusers can’t go out and get an AK-47.”
Biden then interjected claiming that he actually wrote "the bill" when he got the Violence Against Women Act renewed last year — a feat that is related to the boyfriend loophole, but doesn't quite tackle the same specificities. The act, which was first sponsored by Biden in 1993 and passed the following year, is credited as playing a significant role in the 64% decrease in intimate partner violence in the more than 25 years since. Biden has described it as the legislation he is the proudest of his career in the senate.
While the candidates argued over credits, many wondered the same thing: what exactly is the boyfriend loophole? In 2017, Klobuchar helped introduce legislation to close a legal workaround known as the boyfriend loophole, which literally allowed abusive partners to continue buying firearms. Under current federal law, people who have been convicted of domestic abuse are prevented from buying a gun if they have been married to, lived with, or had a child with the victim; however, this does not stop a boyfriend or stalker from purchasing a firearm. Some states have closed the loop on a local level, but Klobuchar’s legislation would see it closed at a sweeping federal level.
A United Nations study conducted in 2017 on gender-related killing of women and girls showed that over 50% of women murdered were killed by an intimate partner and that 82% of all homicide victims targeted by an intimate partner are women. Guns were the weapon of choice in over half of all recorded female homicides.
Given these statistics and the overwhelming cultural push for addressing gun violence and violence against women, closing the boyfriend loophole is an issue 2020 presidential hopefuls are honing in on with actionable solutions that can be implemented.