NRA opposition upsets effort to reauthorize expired Violence Against Women Act

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From left to right Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL). Both Stefanik and Graham are vocal opponents of the Democrat’s legislation to reauthorize VAWA. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is 
set to oppose the Democrats’ legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired in February.

The bill’s red flag provisions, which seek to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, has drawn significant attention from the NRA. The group opposes provisions that could lead to firearm confiscations over misdemeanor domestic violence or stalking convictions.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has urged House Republicans to look towards an alternative VAWA bill sponsored by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), per the National Journal. The bill would provide a one-year extension to continue funding services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence while Congress works on a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA.

First introduced to the 115th Congress and reintroduced in March 2019, Stefanik’s bill only drew the attention of one lobbying group in 2018 — the NRA.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ lobbying database, the NRA lobbied on “proposed changes in legal proceedings to confiscate firearms from individuals” in 2018, along with various other gun-related issues. Lobbying data for 2019 won’t become public until the quarterly filing deadline in April.

The decision comes after Republicans discussed the use of the NRA as cover to vote against Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick’s (R-Pa.) VAWA reauthorization bill, following concerns over the political pressure on gun control. The bill, overwhelmingly sponsored by House Democrats and the lone Republican, Fitzpatrick, proposes gun control legislation concerning protection for survivors of domestic violence and stalking.

“The NRA opposes domestic violence and all violent crime, and spends millions of dollars teaching countless Americans how not to be a victim and how to safely use firearms for self-defense,” NRA spokesperson Jennifer Baker told the National Journal. “It is a shame that some in the gun-control community treat the severity of domestic violence so trivially that they are willing to use it as a tool to advance a political agenda.”

H.R.1585, Bass and Fitzpatrick’s version of VAWA reauthorization, builds on Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-Texas) bill introduced last fall, prior to VAWA’s expiration. Her version allowed law enforcement officials to take weapons from domestic abusers who can’t legally own them.

Several organizations lobbied on the bill in 2018, including the NRA and gun control groups such as Giffords and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

VAWA expired for two years, from 2011 to 2013, when Republican senators objected to new measures included in a reauthorization bill. The measure was the subject of heavy lobbying, with nearly 60 organizations lobbying on the bill before it passed. The NRA was not one of those groups.

The NRA has upped its lobbying efforts during the Donald Trump era, spending more than $10 million on lobbying between 2017 and 2018. However the “dark money” nonprofit has spent significantly less on independent expenditures to influence federal elections than in previous cycles as its revenue has continually declined.

The pull of the NRA and other gun rights organizations with Republicans will be tested as the Senate Judiciary Committee considers VAWA reauthorization and other gun-related laws. During a Tuesday committee hearing on red flag laws, Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a new federal law should create an incentive for states to enact their own extreme risk protection laws that can lead to gun confiscation. His remarks drew harsh criticism from the National Association for Gun Rights.

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