Application of the Lautenberg Amendment to Your Rights


The Lautenberg Amendment is a widely known amendment to the federal Gun Control Act that prohibits the possession of firearms by individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors. Although the amendment’s goals are stated as being positive in nature, enacted to reduce the risk of firearm use in domestic violence cases, the implementation of the law can also have consequences that many did not expect. In this blog, we will look at what Lautenberg is, the landmine effect of the Lautenberg Amendment, how Lautenberg can be avoided by domestic violence offenders, and how differences in Federal, State, and local law can differ.

What is the Lautenberg Amendment?

The Lautenberg Amendment is an Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968, sometimes referred to as the domestic violence offender gun ban. The amendment primarily serves as federal law that prohibits the possession of firearms by individuals who have been convicted of a domestic violence offense, including misdemeanor domestic violence.  While there had been prohibitions in the past against owning a firearm as a felon, this extended those prohibitions to certain misdemeanor offenses.  In fact, the amendment can even impact individuals who have not been convicted of domestic violence. The Lautenberg Amendment designates domestic violence incidents as the only misdemeanor crimes that trigger a lifetime prohibition to the ownership, possession, and transfer of firearms. The amendment doesn’t only impact your ability to own a firearm, it can also have a detrimental effect on your job and your career.

The Landmine Effect of Lautenberg

One of the biggest difficulties with Lautenberg is the fact that it has a landmine effect. In essence, individuals can often find themselves violating the amendment after it is too late, similar to stepping on a landmine. Individuals who aren’t intending to violate any law, and may be unaware that the law applies to them, may find themselves facing a felony at the Federal level for being a prohibited person when they believed that they were not.  This is most common when an individual pleaded guilty to a disturbing the peace charge or a simple assault charge in order to avoid prosecution for a domestic violence charge.  An individual may believe they are still permitted to carry a weapon and inadvertently violate the law by possessing a firearm.

On top of that, Lautenberg works retroactively to before the date it was enacted into law. This means that individuals charged with a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence prior to the introduction of the amendment will still be in violation of Lautenberg if they own, possess, or transfer a firearm.  Even if this has never been explained to the individual, and their crime was 20 years before the Amendment existed, they can be in violation of the law by possessing or using a firearm.

How You Can Avoid Lautenberg if You Have Been Convicted

If you are convicted of domestic violence or any crime in which the facts and circumstances of the case match those of a domestic violence offense, you are prohibited from owning a firearm for the rest of your life. However, there are some ways you can restore your second amendment rights. Specifically under Federal Law, a conviction applies unless that conviction has been set-aside, pardoned, expunged, or you have otherwise had your civil rights restored through a state process. In Nebraska, getting your case set aside restores your rights. The process for receiving a set aside is typically much easier than the pardon or expungement process, though it varies by jurisdiction.

Understanding the Differences Between Federal, State, and Local Firearm Possession Laws

The Lautenberg Amendment is an amendment to federal law, meaning that a violation of its rules will cause a criminal charge to be brought in federal court. However, there are also specific state laws and city ordinances that individuals need to be cognizant of. The specific laws and penalties can differ from those at the Federal level, and it is important to understand how these differences may impact you individually. In two large Nebraska cities, Lincoln and Omaha, violations of city ordinances are sometimes more severe than State laws. So, it is important to understand the specific State laws and city ordinances that pertain to you.

Lautenberg Amendment Lawyers

Berry Law is a proud supporter of the second amendment, and we understand that sometimes a criminal conviction should not be grounds to forfeit this constitutional right. Our Lautenberg Amendment lawyers have experience fighting criminal charges related to Lautenberg and understand the lifelong consequences these cases can have. If you or somebody you know has been charged with domestic violence or charged in violation of Lautenberg, contact Berry Law today at 402-466-8444 to schedule a confidential consultation.

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