RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A major gun control bill is on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. The bill is the first significant piece of federal legislation concerning guns in at least 30 years.

The bill does the following:

  • Enhances background checks for people under 21
  • Sets aside $750 million for red flag law incentives
  • Widens gun ownership restrictions to unmarried domestic abusers

“The presence of a firearm in a home greatly increase the risk there will be a homicide, when domestic violence is at play,” said Kathleen Lockwood, policy director for the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

It’s why she and her organization are applauding Congress’ passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

NCCADV has counted 16 domestic violence homicides this year. All involved a current or former partner. Guns were used in 14 of those homicides.

The federal gun bill narrows the ‘boyfriend loophole’. Previously, federal law barred spouses convicted of domestic violence from possessing a gun. It did not count other serious dating relationships in their restrictions.

This bills says domestic abusers who are not married can’t possess one either.

The impact to NC

“North Carolina law has already addressed this loophole in some ways by prohibiting possession of a firearm while a protective order is in place – which our domestic violence laws do consider unmarried individuals as part of domestic violence,” said Lockwood.

Lockwood said North Carolina’s position is complicated. She said people in the state are more often convicted for assault on a female or simple assault.

“Those crimes already don’t qualify as federal crimes of domestic violence for really technical legal reasons,” Lockwood explained.

She doesn’t expect the federal bill to make a huge impact for us. The bill also said domestic abusers can possess a gun again after five years, if there is no more reported abuse.

“It’s really challenging to look at something like a five year limit and saying how it will apply to everyone. At this point, we’re really just focusing on fixing the boyfriend loophole at all,” said Lockwood.

More work to do

While this bill narrows the boyfriend loophole, it doesn’t close it. Under the federal bill, private dealers or unlicensed sellers don’t have to run background check. This creates a backdoor for abusers to still get their hands on a gun.

Lockwood would also like to see protective orders taken into account on the national level. As she explained, in North Carolina people with a domestic protective order against them are not allowed to own a gun. But that’s not the case nationwide.

“Any way that can be extended across the country or strengthened in our state, would hugely benefit North Carolinians and reduce homicide rates,” Lockwood said.

The bill also doesn’t cover people convicted of stalking. Lockwood said stalking is often a warning sign for future violence.