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Washington — Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn said Wednesday she is working on creating a caucus in Congress for members concerned about domestic violence.

The second-term lawmaker said she is also planning to hold conferences in Washington and Michigan during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

Dingell revealed her plans as she reintroduced her bill that would include dating partners in the category of domestic abusers prohibited from purchasing or owning firearms under federal law. Her bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by GOP Rep. Dan Donovan of New York, would also clarify that convicted stalkers may not legally purchase a firearm.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Dingell has pushed for stricter firearm restrictions in part because the issue of domestic violence is personal.

She’s told the story of a terrifying night as an eighth grader when her father wielded a gun, threatening to shoot her mother. Dingell intervened and tried to grab the weapon, then locked herself and her siblings in a bedroom to try to hide.

Her father broke in. He unplugged the phone, and took the knobs off the doors, “so we could not get out, and no one could get in,” Dingell wrote in a 2012 op-ed in the Washington Post.

“I know what it’s like to live in a home where someone has access to guns who shouldn’t,” Dingell said in an interview. “I don’t want to see somebody live with that fear in their heart. Nobody should have to live in fear of their life or their safety because of domestic violence.”

Donovan, a former district attorney in Staten Island, said the crimes that kept him awake at night were those that might have been prevented.

“There are clear warning signs – including a stalking conviction – before somebody commits serious acts of violence against a current or estranged partner,” Donovan said in a statement.

“It’s common sense to keep tools of violence out of their hands. I know from experience that this legislation will save lives, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Nearly 49 percent of homicides committed by intimate partners from 1980 through 2008 were committed by a dating partner, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The legislation has the endorsement of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, who was shot in the head in 2011 when a gunman opened fire an event she was hosting at a Tucson grocery store. Six people died.

“Every 16 hours a woman is fatally shot in our country by an ex-spouse or intimate partner. As a nation, we should be outraged,” Giffords said in a statement. “This bill won’t stop every act of violence, but it does represent a major step forward that will help make women and their families safer.”

Dingell introduced the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act last Congress, but it did not move out of committee.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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