Doorways and Virginia lawmakers and advocates discuss domestic violence, guns, and lethal legal loopholes

Governor Youngkin Puts Virginia’s Sexual and Domestic Violence Victims in Danger with Latest Budget Proposal and Vetoes of Life-Saving Bills

Youngkin Disregards Pleas from Domestic Violence Victims for Indispensable Services by Slashing Budget for the State’s Victim Service Agencies

Virginia Remains One of a Handful of States in America to Not Have Closed Fatal Loopholes by Vetoing Gun Violence Bills

Arlington, VA, April 11, 2024—Virginia Governor Glenn Younkin put victims of sexual and domestic abuse in grave danger when he drastically cut funding for victim service agencies in his proposed budget amendments and by vetoing HB 46 and SB 47 as well as HB 362 and SB 642, bills that would have closed deadly loopholes in Virginia gun laws. Consequently, Virginia’s victims of domestic violence continue to live in clear and present danger of being shot and/or killed by their abuser due to the Governor’s decisions.

Richmond-based nonprofit criticizes Gov. Youngkin’s vetoes on several gun bills – ABC7

Virginia’s victim service providers were already standing on the edge of a financial cliff before Gov. Youngkin’s budget amendments slashed approximately $7.4 million from agencies that serve victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child trafficking. These proposed cuts come at a time when victim pleas for services continue to rise at an alarming rate. In just the last year alone, the number of domestic violence victims seeking shelter—and, accordingly, protection from their abusers—increased 173 percent, and at a time when these shelters were unavailable to provide  space as they were already at or above capacity. Furthermore, the number of calls to the Statewide Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline increased by 31 percent.

“Governor Youngkin’s decision to veto these bills and cut millions of dollars from agencies providing vital services to crime victims jeopardizes the safety of women and families and leaves sexual and domestic violence advocates without the resources to do their jobs,” said Jonathan Yglesias, policy director for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. “In the last 5 years alone, these agencies have endured a whopping 47.5 percent decrease in federal funds, and without a significant influx of state dollars, there will be catastrophic and generational impacts on victims throughout Virginia.”

Youngkin Fails to Safeguard Virginia Domestic Violence Victims by Vetoing Bills That Would Have Closed Dangerous Loopholes in State Gun Laws

Domestic violence homicide makes up 32 percent of all homicides in Virginia. Of these, 65.5
percent are committed with a firearm. While Virginia law has some protections in place for
domestic violence victims, fatal loopholes in the law exist that put survivors at serious risk.
The four bills the Governor vetoed in March would have closed those lethal loopholes and given law enforcement, courts and communities the tools needed to prevent domestic violence homicides in the state. Instead, Governor Youngkin chose with his vetoes to allow those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a protective order easy access to firearms.

“Fully one-third of Virginians are, at some point, endangered by the people with whom they share their lives. I am deeply disappointed that when given the opportunity to better protect innocent lives, uphold our laws against domestic abusers and lift up families, this administration has instead turned its back on women and families,” said Senator Barbara Favola, 40th Senate district. “There are 4.5 million women in this country who have been threatened with a firearm by an intimate partner. This must change. We must disarm abusers, whether married or not. The Governor’s veto of these bills protects abusers and undermines public safety,” said Delegate Adele McClure, 2nd House district.

Arlington lawmakers decry vetoes of bills to further limit access to guns by domestic abusers – ARLnow

“When I told my abusive husband that I was leaving, he decided to shoot and kill me. A gun was central to his plan, and without it, he would not have had the means to carry it out,” said Lisette Johnson, survivor of domestic violence gun violence. “When controlling and abusive individuals have access to guns, the only wild cards are when it will happen and who will be present.”

Virginia Among Dwindling Number of States That Have Yet to Safeguard Victims by Closing Deadly Loopholes

HB 46 and SB 47, which the governor vetoed on March 8, would have closed a fatal loophole that allowed those convicted of assaulting a family our household member or those issued a final protective order—people who are not allowed to own a firearm—to hand their firearms over to a member of their household. These bills would have prohibited this transfer. Only one-third of U.S. states, including Virginia, have yet to close this loophole. As a result of Gov. Youngkin’s veto, Virginia remains a member of this notorious group.

HB 362 and SB 642 would have closed a loophole in current statute that allows those who commit domestic violence against a dating or intimate partner—aka the boyfriend loophole—to continue to possess their firearms. Currently, an individual convicted of assault and battery against a family or household member is prohibited from possession of firearms. However, no such protection exists for survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence who are not married and not cohabitating with their intimate partner. Federal law and nearly half of the states in the U.S. have eliminated the boyfriend loophole, and with his veto on March 25, Governor Youngkin declined to join the growing number of states that put victims’ lives and safety ahead of other political priorities.

Legal loophole that allows individuals banned from possessing guns to transfer the guns within their home or to third parties – NBC4

“During my years as a prosecutor, I fought day-in and day-out to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I walked alongside them and bore witness to tragedy after tragedy,” said Senator Russet Perry of Virginia’s 31st Senate District. “I also shared in their righteous anger when gaps in Virginia’s laws left them vulnerable to abuse. In Richmond, we have the power to fill those gaps, protect victims and save lives. That’s what SB 642 would have done: closed the boyfriend loophole and saved lives. The Governor’s veto does nothing to preserve public safety, but it will cost lives that could have been saved had he instead signed these bills into law.”

“Our focus was clear – we wanted to protect survivors of domestic violence from gun violence and save lives. I am deeply disappointed that Governor Youngkin decided to veto these basic accountability measures,” said Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, 5th House District.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of the survivors that have been threatened and coerced by their abusers because they have easy access to guns,” said Diana Ortiz, president and CEO of Doorways, Arlington’s sexual and domestic violence agency. “In Arlington, we work closely with our partners in public safety, law enforcement and the courts to disarm abusers before their violence becomes lethal. But we need to continue strengthening Virginia’s protections for survivors and give communities the tools they need to prevent senseless homicides.”

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ABOUT VIRGINIA SEXUAL AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACTION ALLIANCE: The Action Alliance is Virginia’s leading voice on sexual and domestic violence. As a network of survivors, sexual and domestic violence agencies, and allies, we work to strengthen Virginia’s response to and prevention of sexual and domestic violence. We believe ALL people have the right to a life free of sexual and domestic violence. We strive to promote healthy relationships, create thriving communities, and build a more equitable world by centering racial justice, reproductive justice, and economic justice. For more information, visit

ABOUT DOORWAYS: Since 1978, Doorways has provided Arlington’s only emergency shelter for survivors of intimate partner violence. Today, Doorways’ dual state-accredited response to domestic and sexual violence includes community-based, shelter, and housing programs, as well as youth-driven prevention programing which empowers young people to stop abuse before it starts. For more information, visit

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