On June 25, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Among other things, this bipartisan law is intended to reduce the threat of gun violence, promote safer schools, and give greater protection to domestic violence victims. One of the law's more notable features is the closing of the “boyfriend loophole,” which reduces non-married domestic abusers' ability to own a gun. But some domestic violence experts say that the bill doesn't go far enough.
What Is the Boyfriend Loophole?
Prior to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, federal law prohibited people convicted of domestic abuse from owning guns if they were married to, lived with, or had a child with their victim. However, the law did not prohibit abusive dating partners from possessing guns. This gap is often referred to as the “boyfriend loophole.”
Domestic violence experts have urged lawmakers to close this loophole for decades. Every month, an average of 70 women are killed with a firearm by a non-domestic partner, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by Everytown for Gun Safety. Additional data shows a woman is five times more likely to be murdered if her abuser has a gun or access to one.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act closes this loophole by including persons who have those in “current or recent former dating relationship” among those who are barred from owning or possessing a gun after a domestic violence conviction. However, the law does not restrict gun ownership for abusers who are subject to final protective orders or a temporary restraining order. Many experts say that this omission means the boyfriend loophole is not fully closed.
What Is a Protective Order?
A protective order (also called a “restraining order”) is a court order designed to protect abused spouses or other victims of domestic violence from their abusers. In New Jersey, an alleged victim can obtain a protective order by filing a domestic violence complaint in their local county courthouse or police department. If a judge finds the alleged victim's life, health, or well-being in danger, they will grant a temporary restraining order (TRO).
The TRO will prevent the alleged abuser from contacting or being in the same vicinity as the alleged victim. It can also forbid the abuser from contacting the victim, their friends, or family, grant the victim child custody, and oblige the abuser to provide financial support to the victim, among other things. A TRO remains in effect for about ten days, at which time the Final Restraining Order hearing will be held, and the judge will decide whether to grant a final protective order. A final protective order in New Jersey lasts indefinitely.
A New Jersey final protective order generally contains all the prohibitions of the TRO, but it contains one additional mandatory exclusion: it bans the abuser from owning, possessing, or buying firearms. The partially-closed loophole in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, therefore, should not negatively affect domestic abuse victims in New Jersey. Under state law, abusers with permanent restraining orders against them may not own guns.
Skilled Domestic Abuse Lawyer in New Jersey
If you or a loved one is dealing with a protective order issue in New Jersey, it's essential to speak to an experienced New Jersey family law attorney immediately. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team of attorneys have helped many families through restraining order issues. He can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.