BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Victims of domestic abuse are getting more protection after President Joe Biden signed gun legislation into law.

Federal laws prohibiting convicted domestic abusers from owning or purchasing guns only applied to those married or in a legal partnership. However, those convicted of the same crime in a nonmarital relationship were excluded from that ban. This was known as “the boyfriend loophole.”

Western New York advocates say passing this bill into law is a massive step in the right direction.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the nation saw an exponential increase in domestic violence incidents. Western New York was no exception.

The operations manager for the Family Justice Center of Erie County, Ava Thomas, tells News 4 that the number of domestic violence calls they respond to has doubled since the pandemic.

Since March 2020, FJC has answered over 17,000 calls to help survivors and children. Thomas says closing the “boyfriend loophole” will save thousands of lives.

“We screen for the presence of firearms with every single client because we know the risk involved,” said Thomas. “If there is a firearm present where there is domestic violence, there is a 500% greater chance of it becoming a homicide,” she added.

This inclusivity could help survivors gain the courage to reach out for help.

“People often don’t see themselves in the laws that are created, and they don’t see themselves in the services an agency provides,” said Thomas. “So, closing this loophole allows people to see themselves in having access to this particular law.”

However, this new law does come with a complication.

Convicted married abusers who have a child with the survivor will receive a permanent firearm ban for life. But, nonmarital partners will receive a five-year ban. During that period, if no other offenses are committed, the convicted abuser regains the right to purchase a firearm at the end of five years.

You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 800-799-7233