Do Domestic Violence Convictions Disallow Gun Ownership?

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9-milMost often referred to as “the Lautenberg Amendment,” The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is a 1997 Amendment to the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997. Regardless of the proper title, this Amendment simply states that firearms are to be banned from use by those who have been convicted of domestic violence.

Since 1997, the amendment bans not only ownership, but shipment, and transport of guns or ammunition by those who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. In addition, it is also unlawful to knowingly sell firearms or ammunition to these individuals.

In March of this year, crimes of “physical force” were clarified by the Supreme Court and will now bar any convict with a misdemeanor from possessing a firearm. Supported by advocates for battered women, it was eventually decided that domestic abusers have guns permanently placed out of their reach.

Federal law prohibits those charged with a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a firearm. It seems fairly straight forward that gun use should not be permitted for persons having been charged with such violence, however, because of the fact that crimes of domestic violence do not always take the form of physical or sexual violence there does seem to be some ambiguity on the topic. Additionally, cases of domestic violence are often prosecuted under batter laws which also take many forms that don’t always include “a substantial degree of force.”

On the other side of the issue there are individuals concerned with redefining a misdemeanor. Where in most cases an individual charged with a misdemeanor pays a fee and moves on with their life, a new definition means that a few years down the road when this same person goes to buy a firearm they will be unable to purchase one. The responsibility now falls on the individual state governments to decide what their misdemeanor domestic-violence statute looks like.

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