Understanding the “Boyfriend Loophole” in the New Bipartisan Safer Communities ActThe recent Supreme Court decision (New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen) regarding the right to concealed carry was released on the same day that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was presented to the President to sign. For many Americans, these seemingly opposing actions create a lot of questions about what your rights are.

Rest assured: even with the new legislation, the right to carry still remains. It is still protected under the law here in Tennessee, and it is still protected by federal law. But under the new Act, there are some limitations to what is allowed – and one such part of the Act may end up facing challenges in the Courts itself.

What is the “boyfriend loophole”?

Under Tennessee AND federal law, a convicted domestic abuser is prohibited from owning (and thus carrying) a gun. The parameters of what constitutes “domestic violence,” however, are strict. TN Code § 39-13-111:

As used in this section, “domestic abuse victim” means any person who falls within the following categories:

  1. Adults or minors who are current or former spouses;
  2. Adults or minors who live together or who have lived together;
  3. Adults or minors who are dating or who have dated or who have or had a sexual relationship, but does not include fraternization between two (2) individuals in a business or social context;
  4. Adults or minors related by blood or adoption;
  5. Adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by marriage; or
  6. Adult or minor children of a person in a relationship that is described in subdivisions (a)(1)-(5).

As such, domestic violence can only apply to people who live together or who have been in a relationship with each other. It does not apply to ex-partners convicted of domestic abuse. THIS is the “boyfriend” loophole. The new federal law makes temporary/former partners convicted of domestic violence just as forbidden as permanent spouses.

Why is the boyfriend loophole problematic?

This provision may unnecessarily further punish the wrongly-convicted. It does include a caveat that reinstates the right to purchase firearms if the convict’s record stays clean for five years, and this is a welcome change by itself, but there is no consideration given to an individual’s circumstances, actual guilt, treatment status, or anything else.

A person who is convicted of a crime and does the time – whether through fines, probation, incarceration, or supervised release – should not have to suffer further indignities regarding his or her rights. The only way to regain those rights (depending on the conviction) is expungement or a pardon, but these are complicated and complex processes that take considerable time and resources. As such, the average person convicted of a crime has to continuously pay for that mistake, and is denied many of the benefits that could help him or her reacclimate to society in the first place. The right to possess and carry a firearm is guaranteed by the Constitution, and has been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. Prohibiting a person from possessing a firearm in anticipation of a crime not yet committed may pose some legal challenges down the line.

If you’re charged with domestic abuse, you need an attorney

Facing any sort of assault-based criminal charges is serious. Potential employers, landlords, and even partners can access your criminal record. Charges like assault, especially domestic assault, often cause people to make snap, firm decisions without any regard for your side of the story (or the truth of it). These convictions can haunt people for years and years, long after any jail sentences and fines have been collected.

Remember, too, that you can face and be convicted of multiple charges, not just violations of the domestic violence statutes. Even if your only charge is a misdemeanor-level assault, you could still face up to a year behind bars and thousands of dollars in fines. If weapons were allegedly involved in your case, or if the prosecution deems the circumstances call for it, your assault charges could go from misdemeanor to felony. Those convicted of any felony lose a multitude of privileges and rights alongside other social consequences. Not only are convicted felons completely forbidden from possessing firearms, they are also unable to vote, serve on a jury, or keep their criminal record secret in any way, and they may no longer be able to travel to other countries, receive public assistance, or see their families and children.

The best way to reduce the risk to your rights and keep your record clean is to work with an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney who knows how to navigate the law for your benefit. Our Sevierville domestic abuse defense lawyers work to have your charges dismissed outright, but when that is not possible, we will use our knowledge of the laws and the system to your advantage.

If you are facing charges of domestic violence, the time to get an attorney is now. At Delius & McKenzie, we have an experienced, passionate team of Sevierville criminal defense attorneys ready to help you in any way we can. From aggressively advocating for your rights to helping you protect yourself in the meantime, we fight for you like we would fight for ourselves. We serve clients throughout Tennessee, including in Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Seymour, and Pigeon Forge, and you can contact us any time by calling 865-428-8780 or via our contact form.