Washington, D.C. — Today, a new analysis from the Center for American Progress examines the relationship between stalking and gun violence, highlighting a dangerous loophole through which individuals convicted of stalking remain free to buy and possess guns. While stalkers and domestic abusers convicted of felonies are prohibited from purchasing guns under federal law, new CAP data reveals that a worrying number of stalking cases are tried at the misdemeanor level, thus allowing thousands of dangerous individuals to purchase guns and potentially continue a deadly cycle of abuse.
The recent mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, brought into tragic relief the risk posed by individuals with a history of misogyny and violence against women. The perpetrator of that horrific incident had a prior conviction related to his stalking and harassment of a former high school classmate, yet this conviction did not render him ineligible to possess guns. New data obtained by CAP finds that at least 16,399 individuals in 25 states have been convicted of similar misdemeanor-level stalking offenses. And while federal law does bar some individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from gun possession, this law does not extend to individuals convicted of stalking.
“It has long been known that stalking is a risk factor for future violence and that a history of violence against women and easy access to guns is a deadly combination,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress and author of the issue brief. “It’s high time our policymakers take this risk seriously and ensure individuals whose dangerous conduct against women has escalated to the point of a criminal conviction can’t easily get their hands on guns.”
Bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to address this deadly gap in the law and prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor-level stalking crimes from gun possession: the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2017 (S. 1539) and the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act (H.R. 3207).
“As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand the clear connection between stalking, domestic violence, and gun violence—this tragic pattern cannot be allowed to continue. I am leading legislation to ensure that convicted stalkers are not able to buy guns, and I will continue to work to prevent these weapons from getting into the hands of stalkers,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
“No woman should ever live in fear for her life or safety because of domestic violence,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). “In communities across the country, too many families experience senseless tragedies that could have been prevented. It’s commonsense that known abusers and stalkers should not have access to guns. My bipartisan Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act will protect survivors of dating abuse and stalking, and ultimately save lives.”
The brief offers policy recommendations to prevent stalkers and domestic abusers from purchasing guns:
- Enact federal legislation that prohibits individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking from purchasing guns.
- Close the private sale of firearms loophole by requiring that all gun purchases, including those through private sellers, are subject to background checks.
- Protect abuse victims by expanding the federal firearm prohibition to include dating partner abusers and those cases in which courts issue temporary restraining orders against abusers.
Click here to read the issue brief: “Stalking as a Risk Factor for Future Gun Violence.”
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Kyle Epstein at email@example.com or 202.481.8137.