Rubio Backs Bill That Lets Abusive Boyfriends Keep Their Guns

Sen. Marco Rubio has twice voted against past iterations of the Violence Against Women Act.
Sen. Marco Rubio has twice voted against past iterations of the Violence Against Women Act. Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Paperweight-brained Sen. Marco Rubio is often blasted for being a noncommittal, wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed porridge bowl of a politician. He has run for reelection after promising not to run for reelection. He has said mildly critical things about Donald Trump while voting to confirm nearly everything the president has ever suggested. Someone once took a spine to Capitol Hill to make fun of Rubio for lacking one.

But honestly, Rubio does stand for a few clear principles: endless war, a generalized hatred of LGBTQ people, and, of course, the God-given right of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to trample over America as it sees fit. This week is no exception: Gun-safety groups are lobbing criticism at the U.S. senator from Florida for supporting a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill that lets abusive partners keep their guns.

Congress is considering two VAWA bills. One of the them creates new gun-safety measurements the NRA opposes. VAWA, first passed in 1994, is up for a reauthorization this year, and Democratic lawmakers want to use the opportunity to close the so-called boyfriend loophole. Under current law, people convicted of abusing their spouses lose their right to own firearms. But those convicted of abusing dating partners do not lose that right despite the fact that women are as likely to be killed by armed boyfriends as armed husbands, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Last week, the Daily Beast reported that even Trump's Department of Justice supports closing the loophole.

Despite the concern, the NRA in April transparently came out against the new gun-safety measure. The group told the New York Times the provision is somehow "too broad and ripe for abuse" and could lead to people losing their guns without cause.

"Like if you were sending harassing messages to somebody on Facebook, to somebody you never met or somebody you dated five years ago," NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told the Times. "How it's written right now, you could be convicted for a misdemeanor stalking offense for a tweet that causes someone emotional distress and then you would be prohibited from owning a firearm."

So in November, Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa sponsored her own version of VAWA — without closing the loophole. Rubio — who was blasted internationally after the Parkland shooting for taking more than $3 million in donations from the NRA — cosponsored the bill.

That fact, sadly, should not be a surprise, because Rubio has twice voted against past iterations of the Violence Against Women Act. That's a fairly insane-sounding sentence, but it's true: In 2012, he voted against a reauthorization bill written by then-Sen. Patrick Leahy after claiming he didn't like how the bill shifted some programs to the federal government. That bill died. Rubio then voted against a new version of Leahy's bill in 2013 that ultimately passed.

Now gun-safety advocates are lambasting Rubio for supporting Ernst's bill and, once again, making a choice that aligns with the ideology of one of his major donors.

"Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has caved to NRA pressure, deciding to support a version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) that does not include life-saving measures to disarm abusive dating partners and stalkers instead of a bipartisan House-passed version that does," Everytown for Gun Safety said yesterday in a media release.
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Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli