The Boyfriend Loophole in Domestic Violence Law

The Boyfriend Loophole in Domestic Violence Law

Domestic violence is a serious issue plaguing all 50 states; according to studies, in 2013, more than 1,600 American women were killed as a result of intimate partner violence where guns were the weapon of choice, 94 percent of those women were familiar with their offenders, and of those 94 percent, 62 percent had been a spouse or other intimate acquaintance of the murderer. Intimate partner violence in the United States is rather prevalent for multiple reasons. An average American woman’s risk of experiencing intimate partner violence is a little more than one in three; that number soars when a gun is present in the home, whereby the risk of domestic homicide increases by 500 percent. What has many up in arms is the disconnect between federal and state laws, which have led to what is known as a “boyfriend loophole”, whereby women are only receiving protection in circumstances where the perpetrator was a spouse, former spouse, or is the father of any existing children.

The Mismatch Between Federal and State Laws Led to the Boyfriend Loophole

When federal and state laws coordinate well, together they can ensure that the most dangerous domestic violence perpetrators are not permitted to possess or buy guns and surrender any arms that they do possess to the proper authorities. States that enforce background checks for handgun sales show a decrease in intimate partner murder by 38 percent. The federal and state laws, however, have a loophole – the boyfriend loophole – when it comes to defining who is a domestic abuser and whether that person has lost his/her right to possess weapons as a result.

The Effect of the Boyfriend Loophole on Intimate Partner Violence

The following are two examples showing the effect the “boyfriend loophole” has on intimate partner violence:

First, many federal laws do not prohibit abusive dating partners or stalkers who have been convicted from buying guns, which is a significant issue when 25 percent of perpetrators of domestic violence have never been married to their victim nor had a child with them, two factors that are considered when determining whether someone is a intimate partner. In 41 states, there are no laws that provide that certain domestic abusers must relinquish guns that they already possess.

Second, in 35 states around the country, their state laws do not prohibit the purchasing of weapons for those who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes or are currently under restraining orders.

Intimate Partner Violence in South Carolina

According to a study (which evaluates single-victim/single-offender homicide rates) published by the Violence Policy Center in 2013, South Carolina ranked number one for having the highest rate of women killed by male offenders, where 94 percent were murdered by someone with whom they were acquainted. South Carolina is one of those states whose criminal domestic violence statutes provide a boyfriend loophole within its text.

South Carolina’s Domestic Violence Statute: What is a “Household Member”?

According to the statute (Chapter 25, Article 1, Section 16-25-10), the term used is “household member,” which includes spouses, ex-spouses, persons who share a child, and those who cohabit or formerly cohabited. Though this definition is broader than in other states, it does not consider a dating relationship where the couple were intimate partners, but did not live together, did not marry, or did not have a child together. It also does not mention those who have been convicted of stalking. The statute does prohibit possession of a firearm, however, it only applies to those who have been convicted of domestic violence or domestic violence that is of a high and aggravated nature. In other words, the state has to wait until the perpetrator of intimate partner violence has been convicted before they can be dispossessed of weapons.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in Mount Pleasant, Charleston Area

Domestic violence can have a significant impact on any family. Speaking to an experienced family law attorney at Klok Law Firm LLC can provide guidance on the types of protection available and whether divorce from your abusive spouse can be a viable option. Contact Klok Law Firm LLC today for a free and confidential consultation.