Senators agreed, at least in principle, to close the so-called boyfriend loophole. For any who are unaware, this means that domestic violence charges could be applied to dating partners as opposed to now where the definition involves, basically, people who cohabitate together or have been married at some point.
Now, few people take issue with calling violent boyfriends domestic abusers. Not in and of itself, anyway.
Yet there are serious concerns about closing this supposed loophole.
Unless you’re Salon’s Amanda Marcotte, then it’s really all about what the voices in your head say it’s about.
Mea culpa time. In the latest edition of my newsletter, Standing Room Only, I was quite sour about reports about the bipartisan gun bill being negotiated by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. The reporting I’d read suggested the bill was primarily focused on funding for “red flag” laws and mental health spending, both of which are nice but will do little to actually stem the problem of gun violence, especially in red states. But more fleshed-out details since show that one under-discussed aspect of the bill may end up being the most important: A proposal to finally close the “boyfriend loophole” in the federal background check law.
This is something that both feminists and gun control activists have been demanding for decades, only to have Republicans — no fans of either preventing gendered violence or gun deaths — get in the way.
It’s doubly frustrating for how nonsensical the allowance is. Under the current background check system, a person with a domestic violence conviction should be flagged and prevented from purchasing a gun — but only if they married or lived with the person they assaulted. Someone who attacked a dating partner they hadn’t moved in with yet can buy all the guns they want. Half of domestic violence murders, however, are at the hands of someone who hasn’t lived with their victim. So it’s not like this is a minor problem. The ugly implication has been that the Republican opponents to closing the boyfriend loophole simply see hitting a girlfriend as a lesser crime than hitting a wife.
Except that implication exists only in Marcotte’s heavily biased mind. Why else cite “misogyny” in this piece’s headline?
The problem is that there’s no objective mechanism for determining if someone is a boyfriend or not. The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill language basically said it was anyone who had been in an “intimate” relationship with the victim, but also stated that sex wasn’t a requirement to be considered as such a relationship.
That’s pretty vague and difficult to determine, and that’s a big problem.
Especially in an era where younger generations don’t “date” in quite the same manner as older generations did. Back in my day, you got a boyfriend or girlfriend and you were a couple. Today, many sort of gather in groups where they may sort of pair off, but not in quite the same manner.
It muddies the water as to who is really in a relationship with who.
Then there are concepts like “friend with benefits” or even just a one-night stand between people in the same social circle. Just where do we draw the line?
Of course, speaking of muddied water, Marcotte did that quite well herself. After all, she claims nearly half of all intimate partner homicides were committed by people who didn’t live together, but I actually took a look at that report. It doesn’t actually say any such thing. (She also glossed over the part of the report that noted the percentage killed with guns has been dropping since 1980.)
What it does say is that by 2008, 48.6 percent of all intimate partner homicides were committed by partners who weren’t married to the victim, but it doesn’t make any reference to where the killer was living or not.
Further, it should be noted that it also says that 48.6 percent were boyfriends and girlfriends. Funny how she left that part out when discussing the “boyfriend loophole,” which probably should be called the “boyfriend or girlfriend loophole,” if we’re going to be really accurate.
Back to the main point about the study, though, I find it awful patriarchal of Marcotte to believe that only spouses live with one another in this day and age.
Now, understand, I have no doubt that a fair percentage of that 48.6 percent weren’t cohabitating in any way. It’s probably likely that many weren’t. My point is that the study doesn’t say what she claims it does.
Then again, there are real problems with the so-called boyfriend loophole, which she also seems to be unable to grasp because of her own internal hangups.