Heinrich, Flake Introduce Bill To Permanently Close Gun Loophole Used By Texas Shooter

Domestic Violence Loophole Closure Act will ensure anyone convicted of domestic violence in military court cannot legally purchase a firearm

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced the bipartisan Domestic Violence Loophole Closure Act; legislation that will close the background check loophole exploited by the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooter and ensure that any individual convicted of domestic violence – whether it is in criminal or military court – cannot legally purchase a firearm.

“Our country is weary from violence and grief and the American people deserve meaningful action from Congress. With each new tragic shooting, we see clear examples of how we are failing to keep guns out of the hands of those who would turn them against our communities,” said Heinrich. “We must address the loopholes that helped lead to this weekend's mass shooting in Texas. The military failed to report a domestic violence conviction that should have prevented the gunman from purchasing weapons. The Department of Defense has a responsibility to report these convictions and ensure the NICS database is accurate to prevent tragedies like the Sutherland Springs shooting. This is something Republicans and Democrats can agree on and action we must take to prevent future tragedies.” 

“It appears this loophole allowed a man who was clearly unfit to purchase a firearm to do so at the cost of 26 innocent lives,” said Flake. “This bill will ensure that a situation like this will not happen again and that anyone, anywhere convicted of domestic violence is kept from legally purchasing a gun.”

Currently, the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have a specific charge of domestic violence, instead charging such cases as general assault. This can complicate the enforcement of the domestic-violence ban on gun purchases, as happened with the shooter responsible for the deaths of 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas this week, whose crime of domestic violence did not disqualify him from purchasing a firearm.

This bill permanently clarifies the ambiguity in 1996 Lautenberg amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968 as it applies to the military, and requires the military to report misdemeanors of domestic violence to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database to be used in background checks for all legal gun purchases. Despite the Lautenberg amendment’s intentions, since the NICS database was modernized in 2007, only one case of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence conviction has been reported. 

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is a cosponsor of the Domestic Violence Loophole Closure Act. “The tragedy in Texas highlights how important it is that the military document and report domestic violence immediately so that firearms don’t end up in the wrong hands,” said Shaheen. “The failure to report in this case demonstrates the need for legislative action and I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort. We know that domestic violence is a red flag for further violence and we must do more to prevent the next attack.” 

A copy of the bill is available here.