When Domestic-Violence Prevention Collides With the Religion of Guns

A pro-gun rally in Olympia, Washington in 2018. Photo: Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images

American conservatives’ peculiar attachment to Second Amendment absolutism and what can only be described as a religion of gun ownership isn’t only manifested in stubborn opposition to the mildest forms of free-standing firearm-safety legislation, it also pops up on other issues where compelling interests collide with the cult of the gun. That includes the supposedly bipartisan and cross-ideological cause of domestic-violence prevention.

After a two-year lapse in the 1994 law (originally championed by then-Senator Joe Biden), the House voted this week to renew the Violence Against Women Act — but 172 House Republicans opposed it, with many citing concerns over the bill’s provisions closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” in existing gun laws. Currently, spouses and ex-spouses convicted of domestic abuse or under court restraining orders cannot legally purchase firearms. The bill would extend that prohibition to those previously in dating relationships.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene faithfully echoed the idea that guns are the solution to every problem, not a problem in themselves, as the New York Times reports:

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, pushed unsuccessfully for amendments that would allow the government to fund firearm training and self-defense classes for women.

“If you want to protect women, make sure women are gun owners and know how to defend themselves,” she said. “That’s the greatest defense for women.”

This was interesting timing; Greene was touting the salvific power of shooting irons on the very day that the nation was focused on a gun massacre just outside her district that left six Asian women and two other people dead. She presumably would argue that fitting out all potential victims of guns violence with firearms would take care of the racist and misogynistic threat the murders dramatized.

In line with their 2021 strategy of tripling down on culture-war themes, Republicans also attacked the VAWA reauthorization for introducing safeguards for transgender people, who most of them do not deign to recognize. Arizona’s Debbie Lasko, herself a survivor of domestic violence, was angry about sharing the law’s protections:

“The most egregious provisions of this bill push leftist gender ideology at the expense of important protections for women’s privacy and safety,” said Representative Debbie Lesko, Republican of Arizona, who recounted her own experience with domestic violence. “If this bill is enacted, these shelters under penalty of federal law would be required to take in men and shelter them with women, putting vulnerable women at risk.”

In Lasko’s view, transgender women are still men, you see. Or as Greene put it in a tweet, “Again Democrats want to violate girls and women’s rights by destroying God’s creation, male and female.”

Twenty-nine House Republicans did vote for the VAWA reauthorization. With Democrats now in a position to force a vote in the Senate, we’ll see if ten Senate Republicans can be rustled up to make this happen. But Lesko and Greene will have many comrades in the Senate Republican conference who find no cause more holy than gun rights, and no tactics too despicable — certainly not transphobic assertions about “God’s creation” — to protect the gospel of the Second Amendment.

When Domestic-Violence Prevention Collides With Gun Rights