City of Houston Federal Update

Executive & Legislative Advocacy

Safer Communities Act GraphicLegislative Advocacy - Safer Communities Act

S. 2938

The law introduced enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21, closed the "boyfriend loophole" to prevent convicted domestic abusers from purchasing firearms for five years and allocated $15 billion in funding for issues like school security and mental health.

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) played key roles in negotiations that led to the bill's passage. They were spurred to consensus after shootings last year in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, left a total of 31 people dead.

The end result was a modest proposal: increased funding for mental health, incentives for states to implement red flag laws that keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose threats to themselves or others, increased school security funding and the closing of what is known as “the boyfriend loophole.”

  • Current federal statutes prohibit firearm purchases for those convicted of committing domestic violence against spouses or partners who live together or share a child.

To close the loophole, the new law will leave to the courts how to define and include dating partners who commit such abuse.

Emilee Whitehurst, CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center, said closing the boyfriend loophole was of the utmost importance, stating:

Restricting gun access for convicted abusers has been a decades long priority for domestic violence advocates. Federal laws currently in place ban abusers already convicted of domestic violence from purchasing or owning a gun if they are married to the victim, live with the victim, or have a child with the victim. Tragically, that same principle does not apply to romantic or dating partners, thus the ‘boyfriend loophole.”

On June 25, 2023, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, marking the first major gun legislation in nearly three decades. In signing the legislation, President Biden said:

While this bill doesn’t do everything I want, it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives.  It funds crisis intervention, including red-flag laws.  It keeps guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves and to others.  And it finally closes what is known as the “boyfriend loophole.”  So if you assault your boyfriend or girlfriend, you can’t buy a gun or own a gun.

It requires young people ages 18 to 21 to undergo enhanced background checks.  It includes the first-ever federal law that makes gun trafficking and straw purchases distinct federal crimes for the first time.  It clarifies who needs to register as a federally licensed gun dealer and run background checks before selling a single weapon.