The National Rifle Association says it will turn the Violence Against Women Act into one of its infamous litmus tests on whether members of Congress place Second Amendment rights first and foremost on their political agendas. Americans from all parties and walks of life need to turn this vote into a litmus test of where lawmakers stand on a woman's right not to be killed or terrorized by a crazed, jealous person with a gun.
The act was originally passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized three times. It expired in February, a victim of the political chaos from the government shutdown. It is time for Congress to expose the NRA as the toothless tiger it is, and the Violence Against Women Act is exactly the bill that can do it.
Members of Congress who vote against this bill — which passed in the House on Thursday by a 263 to 158 vote — need to be called out for effectively declaring that women's lives matter less than guns. Only one Democrat sided with the NRA in Thursday's House vote, and 33 Republicans had the integrity and courage to stand up to the gun lobby.
The NRA objects to language in the act that prohibits firearms sales to anyone convicted of stalking or who is subject to a restraining order obtained by a person they are dating or have dated. The language was inserted into the bill not because liberals are once again going crazy with their anti-gun agenda. It's because guns are a primary means by which jilted lovers or shunned stalkers seek revenge on the person who did the jilting or shunning. Consider these well-documented statistics compiled by the group Everytown for Gun Safety:
— Every year, one in nine prohibited purchasers denied by a background check are domestic abusers.
— Over half of female victims of intimate-partner homicide in America are killed with a gun.
— Because guns are so ubiquitous in America, women are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun than in other wealthy countries.
— On average, at least 52 women are killed monthly in gun violence inflicted by an intimate partner, and nearly 1 million women in America have survived a gun attack by an intimate partner.
Removing guns from such scenarios wouldn't protect women from violent ex-lovers or stalkers, but it would certainly limit attackers' access to a weapon that can inflict immediate, inescapable harm.
The November midterm elections made clear that women are flexing their political muscle like never before, with 102 now holding House seats and 25 in the Senate. Now that the Violence Against Women Act is in the Senate's hands, it's time to establish a clear litmus test that says a woman's right to live free from gun terror takes priority over the NRA's twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH