The Lautenberg Amendment
The Gun Control Act of 1968 The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) established a comprehensive scheme regulating the manufacture, sale, transfer, and possession of firearms and ammunition.1 Section 922(g) of the GCA delineates nine classes of individuals who are prohibited from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving firearms or ammunition in interstate commerce. The individuals targeted by this provision include: (1) persons convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year; (2) fugitives from justice; (3) individuals who are unlawful users or addicts of any controlled substance; (4) persons legally determined to be mentally defective, or who have been committed to a mental institution; (5) aliens illegally or unlawfully in the United States, as well as those who have been admitted pursuant to a nonimmigrant visa; (6) individuals who have been discharged dishonorably from the Armed Forces; (7) persons who have renounced United States citizenship; (8) individuals subject to a pertinent court order; and, finally, (9) persons who have been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense.2
The Lautenberg Amendment In September, 1996, as part of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, Congress amended the criminal provisions of the GCA, adding a ninth disqualification category. Commonly referred to as the “Lautenberg Amendment,” this provision makes it unlawful for “any person...who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition in or affecting commerce.3 Relatedly, the Lautenberg Amendment prohibits the knowing sale or other disposition of any firearm or ammunition to a domestic violence misdemeanant.4 Furthermore, the Lautenberg Amendment alters the traditional public interest exception to the firearms disqualification provisions of the GCA, in that it applies to any individual who has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, including federal, state, and local law enforcement officers.5
Click here to view the: Firearms Prohibitions and Domestic Violence Convictions: The Lautenberg Amendment
How does the Lautenberg Amendment impact the officer and the victim of police domestic violence?
Barriers Victims Face
Research reveals the level of the lethality involved in domestic violence by police officers as the most lethal form of domestic violence. This may be due to the accessibility of weapons and training. Additionally, police officers work within the very system where the victim will report the abuse and attempt to seek help and justice. Solidarity reaches far beyond the police department. It reaches into the judicial system where judges often side with the police officer. Judicial bias is common among police officers who engage in domestic violence and charged with the crime.
It is suggested that working within the same system, the criminal justice arena, members of that system also feel the same sense of loyalty, preventing victims from seeking necessary actions to protect themselves from the abuse; such as obtaining a personal protection order, or child custody. Personal protection orders are often denied by judges because of a federal law, The Lautenberg Amendment to the gun control act and family violence act (1968). This law prohibits any person convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms, including a police officer “A law enforcement officer with such a conviction cannot carry a gun” (Allen, Hibler, & Miller 2000). This poses a significant threat to the officer’s position since carrying a gun is part of the tools of the trade of police work. Other professions do not have the same threat of a potential loss of employment when charged with domestic violence.