Should Congress reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act?


Should Congress reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act? The 1994 law is coming before Congress this week for a vote. The rub is that the revised bill contains a new provision that expands the definition of those affected to include stalkers and current or former boyfriends or even dating partners. Offenders would be prohibited from purchasing or owning certain firearms.

Organizations such as the NRA oppose the expansion because it casts too wide of a net over too large of the population: The crime of stalking can be described merely as the unwanted pursuit of another person.


The new provisions would prevent a person convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking a current or former dating partner or others subject to a domestic abuse court order that prohibits the person from purchasing or possessing a firearm. The current law stops short of including dating partners (or former dating couples) and stalkers in the mix.

By its nature, stalking is not a one-time event, but rather a pattern of behavior meant to cause harm or distress. However, we can easily envision an abuse of the new provisions by overly zealous prosecutors that seek to broaden the common sense definition of stalking. The proposed measures seem too broad or vague.

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