Less than one day after a man shot and killed seven women in a violent rampage at three separate Asian massage parlors in Atlanta, the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Notably, 172 Republicans opposed the legislation because it adds firearm restrictions for people convicted of domestic violence, along with protections for transgender people and same-sex couples. The bill is a response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, and it previously expired in 2019.
The House voted along party lines, with just 29 Republicans joining the 215 Democrats who voted in favor. The 244-172 vote will send the bill to the Senate where it might face even more difficulty being approved, with Democrats controlling 50 of the 60 necessary votes.
Several provisions added to the bill have received bipartisan support, including state grants to expand sexual and domestic violence services and housing assistance for survivors. However, 172 Republicans took issue with additions that would make purchasing or owning a firearm more difficult for people convicted of a violent crime or subject to a court order, The New York Times reports. Republicans took further issue with the bill's proposed expansion to protect gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Republicans who voted against the bill include Lauren Boebert (CO), Madison Cawthorn (NC), Liz Cheney (WY), Matt Gaetz (FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Devin Nunes (CA), among others.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by a partner in the U.S. on average. Further, the organization states that 35% of all women killed by men are killed by an intimate partner with a firearm. But intimate partner violence is also a problem for gay, bisexual, and trans individuals who face high rates of domestic violence and additional barriers to receiving institutional support. Data from the No More Foundation reports that between 30 and 50% of transgender people experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
Still, Republicans are invoking the boogieman of the so-called radical left in their opposition to passing the VAWA in its current form.
"It seems to me that many on the left decided that they could use this critical legislation that's intended to protect women and girls from violence as a vehicle to promote their far-left political agenda," said Republican Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot. Republican Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko echoed the same, claiming that "The most egregious provisions of this bill push leftist gender ideology at the expense of important protections for women's privacy and safety."
Jason Ouimet, the executive director of the NRA's lobbying arm told NPR, "Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and anti-gun lawmakers chose to insert gun control provisions into this bill in 2019 to pit pro-gun lawmakers against it so that they can falsely and maliciously claim these lawmakers don't care about women."
While conservatives and far-rightists in Congress claim that additional gun control provisions in a bill to protect people from intimate partner violence is some kind of Democrat-led conspiracy, advocates of the bill simply want to keep people — namely, women — alive.
"This reauthorization would significantly increase funding for rape prevention programs," said Allison Randall, vice president for policy for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "The longer it takes means more survivors won't benefit."
Jennifer Becker, deputy legal director of Legal Momentum, a legal advocacy group for women, told NPR the additional firearm provisions and protections for trans people are necessary. "Everything that we advocate for in VAWA is based on the reality of what we know victims are being subjected to, and what we know survivors need to seek safety, accountability, healing," said Becker. "These provisions are central to ensuring that people stay alive," she said.