The "Boyfriend Loophole" and Intimate Partner Homicides: A Longitudinal Analysis Using the National Violent Death Reporting System
Intimate partner homicides (IPHs) often occur in the context of violent relationships, and firearms often facilitate lethal outcomes. Accordingly, policies have been implemented to reduce firearm access among individuals with histories of intimate partner violence (IPV) or violent propensities. There is considerable variation, however, in the enactment and implementation of such state-level firearm protection laws. Some states fail to extend IPV-related firearm related protections to dating partners, creating what has been referred to elsewhere as the “boyfriend loophole”, or what will be referred to here as the “partner loophole”. The goal of this analysis was to examine trends in National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) data to assess the relationship of IPHs among unmarried victims in association with state partner loopholes. State policies were abstracted to identify partner loopholes. A series of negative binomial generalized estimating equations were performed using lagged policy variables, year fixed-effects, robust standard errors, and errors clustered by state. Model findings suggest that increased firearm access is related to higher rates of unmarried IPH victimization, however, the associations between the presence of a partner loophole and IPH rates amongst unmarried victims varied between racial subgroups. Significant, protective relationships with closed partner loopholes were identified for the IPH rates amongst white unmarried victims, however, not amongst victims of color. The partner loophole policies considered here, and other individual IPV-related and/or firearm-related policies may be an important component of protections, however, our findings suggest they are not independently sufficient to equitably reduce the burden of IPH. Continuing to develop public health and policy evaluation literature will be essential to progressing towards a policy landscape and cultural environment that are equitably protective.