Connolly, King, Turner Introduce the Safe Homefront Act
Legislation To Ensure Servicemembers Convicted of Domestic Violence Cannot Obtain Firearms
Washington, September 13, 2019
Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Peter King (R-NY), and Mike Turner (R-OH) introduced H.R. 4264, the Safe Homefront Act, to ensure that no U.S. servicemember with a felony-level domestic violence conviction is able to legally purchase firearms. This bipartisan legislation would codify and strengthen the Department of Defense’s (DOD) policies regarding the reporting of domestic violence convictions and Military Protective Orders (MPOs) to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Also, this legislation would give military commanders peace of mind that no convicted domestic abuser who is currently legally restricted from purchasing firearms goes unreported.
One of the domestic abusers who DOD failed to report was Devin Kelley, who shot and killed 27 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas in November of 2017. Had DOD submitted his fingerprints and General Court Martial Conviction to the FBI, he would have been prohibited from purchasing the very firearms he used in the massacre. The legislation solidifies into law the process of reporting these type of convictions to the FBI.
“Abuse is abuse, and no perpetrator of domestic violence– be they military or civilian – should be able to easily pass a background check and legally purchase a gun,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly. “The Safe Homefront Act will help protect victims of domestic abuse by reforming how the military handles domestic violence incidents, starting by compelling the Department of Defense to fully comply with existing statutory prohibitions on access to firearms. As we saw all too tragically in Sutherland Springs, the consequences of inaction are devastating to families and our military communities.”
“There are certainly proactive steps we can take to keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill, people we all agree shouldn’t have guns,” said Congressman Peter King. “As government officials it is our responsibility to protect our citizens, and we owe it to the victims and their families to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.”
“The Sutherland Springs shooting exposed failures in the Department of Defense’s processes for reporting military convictions to civilian authorities,” said Congressman Mike Turner. “The Safe Homefront Act helps close those loopholes to ensure that convicted abusers within the service branches are incapable of possessing firearms. Bills like this one are strong steps forward in preventing future tragedies. I will continue to work with my colleagues across the aisle to make our country safer.”
According to the Department of Defense Inspector General, DOD has failed consistently to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) servicemembers with domestic violence convictions who are prohibited from purchasing firearms under current law. In fact, 4 out of 5 incidents of domestic violence are not properly reported to the FBI and NICS. Additionally, under current law, Military Protective Orders (MPOs) issued by unit commanders in response to domestic violence incidents do not prohibit individuals from purchasing firearms. However, comparable civilian protective orders issued by judges do prohibit such purchases. The Safe Homefront Act would help DOD develop a plan to address this disparity.
The legislation is endorsed by the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Futures Without Violence, Protect Our Defenders and the Service Women’s Action Network.
"For far too long, the Department of Defense has failed to ensure domestic violence court-martial convictions are properly reported as required by law,” said Don Christensen, President of Protect Our Defenders. “Despite numerous Inspector General reports verifying qualifying convictions are not being reported at an alarming rate, the Pentagon is still failing to notify civilian authorities of convictions that would keep domestic abusers from purchasing firearms. The horrific church shootings committed by Devin Kelley were a direct consequence of the military's dereliction. That is why Protect Our Defenders is proud to support the Safe Homefront Act and Representative Connolly's efforts to ensure that never again will a convicted military domestic abuser have access to firearms due to Department of Defense inaction."