Sen. Joni Ernst is facing a re-election battle in her home state of Iowa, and now she’s facing a series of domestic abuse survivors and family members asking her, publicly and powerfully, why she’s trying to help abusers and stalkers keep their guns. Ernst blocked the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and then turned around and tried to take credit as a sponsor of VAWA by introducing a new version of the bill that stripped out a provision banning convicted domestic abusers from having guns.
Ernst showed her allegiance to the NRA over women whose lives are in danger, and did so despite her own history as a survivor of domestic abuse and rape. In fact, she’s tried to use her status to strengthen her push to leave guns in the hands of abusers, saying, “I do not need to be mansplained to by Chuck Schumer. I am a survivor,” after the Senate minority leader called her out over the “boyfriend loophole.” The survivors in a new campaign called Why Joni? are not having it.
“I’m angry and disappointed in Joni Ernst,” says Lilly Steil in one video. “She’s not looking out for the best interests of women especially.” Steil’s sister was murdered by an abusive ex in 2019, and, says Steil, “I think she really could have been protected by a law like this, where, you know, he wouldn’t have been able to have a gun.”
“Joni Ernst is weak,” Steil says in the video. “Honestly, if you can’t stand up for the victims, and if you’re going to put politics in front of people, that’s a shame.”
Another woman, Amanda Johnson, says in a video that after she got a no-contact order against her partner, she asked how the guns that he was no longer supposed to possess would be taken away, and learned that it was up to him—up to her abusive ex—to turn in his own guns. “I am actually lucky because he’s currently in prison,” she says. “I don’t even know if he turned in his guns, to be honest. He might still have them at home and he’s just in prison without them. But what happens when he gets out? That really scares me. That really scares me.”
Sen. John Cornyn went to bat for Ernst on Friday, but, as it turned out, too many people know what Ernst really did: You don’t get to take credit as a sponsor of VAWA when you’ve blocked a bipartisan bill and introduced a watered-down substitute with a key provision stripped out. Seriously, she’s making a point of allowing people convicted of violent crimes to keep their guns. And there are plenty of survivors and family members out there willing to tell it like it is as Ernst seeks re-election.