'Boyfriend loophole' and 'red flag' laws: A breakdown of the two issues stalling legislation on gun control

'Boyfriend loophole' and 'red flag' laws: A breakdown of the two issues stalling legislation on gun control
President Donald J. Trump, Senator John Cornyn, and Senator Ted Cruz | August 29, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In the last two months, multiple mass incidents of disturbing gun violence have erupted across the United States. But despite the number of shootings that have taken place, lawmakers are still at an impasse on gun control legislation. While the need for more aggressive gun laws might seem like a no-brainer to most, VOX Media's Li Zhou is breaking down the real reasons behind the stall on gun control.

According to Zhou, the problem stems from two main issues: the "boyfriend loophole" and “red flag” laws. "Republican negotiators believe Democrats are being too expansive in their proposals and would like to ensure they don’t act too aggressively in curbing access to firearms," Zhou wrote. "In particular, there’s a split over closing what’s known as the 'boyfriend loophole,' and over how grant money dedicated to strengthening 'red flag' laws could be used."

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, June 15, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) —who serves as the lead negotiator on behalf of the Republican Party— said, “At some point, if we can’t get to 60 [Senate votes] then we’re going to have to pare … some of it down,” Cornyn said.

Zhou went on to note that: "There are two major areas that have emerged as sticking points: Closing the 'boyfriend loophole' and specifying where grant money associated with 'red flag' laws can be used."

Breaking down both issues, she wrote:

  • “Boyfriend loophole”: Currently, people who have domestic violence convictions are barred from owning a firearm, though this restriction only applies if a person has been married to, lived with, or has a child with the victim. The gap in the policy is known as the “boyfriend loophole” because it excludes people who are dating but don’t fall into the other categories.
  • Red flag laws: One provision of the framework would provide states with grant money to incentivize them to either pass red flag laws or implement them better.

To make matters worse, Zhou also noted that time is of the essence. "One of Congress’s biggest obstacles — as it often is — is time," she wrote.

"Lawmakers are scheduled to leave town as soon as June 24 to go on a two-week recess for the July 4 holiday, and Democrats hope to nail down a vote before then," Zhou added. "While the Senate could always cancel this recess, that has historically been unlikely. And if a vote on the bill slips much longer, it’s likely momentum on this issue could slow."

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