Editorials

Missouri, Kansas lawmakers cave to NRA pressure, oppose Violence Against Women Act

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is a social and public health problem in the U.S. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey says nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.
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Sexual violence is a social and public health problem in the U.S. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey says nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.

Thank you, Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner, for being one of only 33 independent-minded House Republicans who voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday.

It’s a shame but not exactly a bombshell that so few of your GOP colleagues resisted political pressure and came down on the side of making women safer. Only one House Democrat voted against the reauthorization, and local Democratic Reps. Sharice Davids of Kansas and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri supported it.

Surely Missouri Reps. Vicki Hartzler and Sam Graves and Kansas Rep. Steve Watkins also know that domestic and sexual violence isn’t a partisan issue. But most of the GOP crumbled after the National Rifle Association glared and grumbled.

According to the gun lobby, former and current intimate partners who’ve been convicted of stalking should get to keep their guns, and buy new ones, too.

Think about that for a minute: You have to be a determined abuser to even get convicted; first-timers almost never see the inside of a courtroom. And this kind of behavior is virtually never a one-time thing.

Yet even Republicans who should know better went along with the NRA line that barring convicted abusers from buying guns is a cynical political trap intended to make gun owners look like woman-haters.

Instead, the opposite is true; it’s in falling for this nonsense that you make yourselves look anti-women, and for what? The rights of girlfriend-abusers to keep an arsenal?

It’s already illegal for spouses and domestic partners convicted of stalking or sexual violence to keep a gun, but the bill that passed in the House on Thursday would expand the Violence Against Women Act to close what’s known as the “boyfriend loophole.”

It prohibits anyone convicted of stalking or subject to a restraining order filed by a person they are dating or have dated in the past from owning or purchasing a firearm.

Stalking is a misdemeanor, and the NRA argues that limiting gun ownership over a mere misdemeanor is extreme. Only, stalking is never a minor matter. And it’s a violation that only escalates.

Wagner explained her thinking in a statement to The Star editorial board: “I came to Congress to be a voice for the voiceless and serve the women and girls who so desperately need our help. It is because of this calling I worked across the aisle to improve this legislation and supported final passage of VAWA. I looked at this bill as a sum of the whole and voted in favor in order to combat the pervasive problems of sexual and domestic violence in our communities.”

Another Republican who understands intimate partner violence is Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who has spoken publicly about being raped by a college boyfriend and assaulted by her now former husband.

She will be working with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Senate version, and hopefully can explain to our Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley and Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts why allowing unmarried abusers to buy guns is a danger to women and an affront to good sense. And barring them from doing so is no threat whatsoever to the Second Amendment.

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