Closing the “boyfriend loophole” by expanding the definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to include the abuse of “dating partners” further entrenches the law into an unworkable quasi-marital framework rooted in an antiquated understanding of domestic violence. The federal firearm prohibition would more effectively target high-risk offenders if 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(A) were revised to eliminate the quasi-marital framework and reflect a modern understanding of the power and control dynamics involved in intimate partner violence. This Comment begins by summarizing the emergence of federal domestic violence law and describing the limitations of the Lautenberg Amendment. It then examines the shortcomings of Congress’s efforts to close the “boyfriend loophole” through the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Next, this Comment argues the merits of abandoning the quasi-marital framework entirely by explaining the already broad support that the institution of marriage receives from the American legal system, the unfortunate historical link between marriage and domestic violence, and the stark reality that relationship status does not determine the risk of domestic violence or femicide. It also contends that current law inaccurately criminalizes domestic violence; specifically, that it makes little sense to separately prosecute stalking and domestic violence when the typical femicide case involves a cyclical pattern of both physical and non-physical abuse, including stalking, intended to exert power and control over the victim. Finally, this Comment concludes by proposing a modernized definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence that sheds the quasi-marital framework, imports the “course of conduct” language from stalking statutes, and extends to both physical and non-physical abuse. It also offers a new standard for evaluating the relationship requirement which courts can implement through jury instructions in the absence of legislative innovation.
What's Love Got To Do With It? Redefining Domestic Violence to Close Federal Firearm Loopholes,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol75/iss1/8