The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to extend the Violence Against Women Act for another five years. The Violence Against Women Act was originally created in 1994, with its goal to fight domestic violence and sexual assault. The bill’s renewal would continue to fund programs to prevent gender-based crimes and help the victims of these crimes recover through expanded housing and jobless benefits. The bill also works to improve services to children who are exposed to domestic violence and more.
Wisconsin’s congressional delegates split their votes almost directly along party lines, with all Democrats in favor of the act’s renewal and all Republicans against it except for Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville.
The reasoning behind this is generally unknown, however, one part of the bill is definitely more controversial than the others. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “The bill prohibits persons convicted of misdemeanor stalking or dating violence from possessing firearms.” Ua Conchobair
Republicans are known for their adverse attitude to an increase in gun control, so this part of the bill may be one of the reasons most of Wisconsin’s Republicans voted against it. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Hayward, has even gone on records claiming that Democrats are bent on eradicating the Second Amendment.
The statistics that describe the relationship between firearms and domestic abuse paint a terrifying picture — 19 percent of domestic violence involves a weapon. Furthermore, the presences of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline conducted a survey of people whose abusers had access to firearms. Of the respondents, 10 percent said their abusers had fired a gun during an argument and 67 percent believed their abusers were capable of killing them. These statistics should be reason enough to approve an extension of the Violence Against Women Act. But these numbers represent real people, real lives in danger of being lost. Relieving abusers of their right to bear arms is worth saving the lives of the vulnerable.
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Another notable action of the bill is that it also requires shelters to “admit transgender individuals in their acquired sex,” which could be a point of concern for Republican lawmakers who often fail to accept and respect the transgender community.
No matter their reasoning for rejecting the bill, however, Wisconsin’s Republican congressmen need to open their eyes and realize the Violence Against Women Act is absolutely necessary to combating sexual assault and domestic violence in the U.S. today.
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Regardless of one’s feelings on firearms, there is no denying these statistics. Protecting U.S. citizens, specifically women, from their abusers by making sure they do not have access to guns is completely just and necessary to keeping U.S. citizens safe.
Furthermore, the Violence Against Women Act ensures that rape prevention and education programs are properly funded and continue to take place on college campuses. With University of Wisconsin’s own multitude of sexual assault cases over the past few years, this funding is necessary to addressing the major problem of sexual assault on UW’s campus and elsewhere in the U.S.
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If the part of the bill about admitting transgender individuals in their acquired sex is truthfully considered a problem, then perhaps Republicans need to rethink their values. Just how far is one willing to go to disrespect a community? Transgender individuals should always be recognized and accommodated by the gender they identify with, especially in a case as serious and personal as a shelter.
Though we can only speculate what caused this rift among party lines, the reality is that the reasoning does not matter. Keeping U.S. citizens safe from domestic abuse, sexual assault and the potential of firearms in the wrong person’s hands should take priority over all other trivial controversies.
While this is only one case, it seems there is a general pattern of Republicans voting against common sense laws because of small aspects that turn them off. Especially when it comes to something as serious as domestic abuse and sexual assault, however, Wisconsin’s Republican congressmen need to realize the importance of safety over opinion.
Courtney Degen ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and journalism.