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Lautenberg Amendment: Understanding law, repercussions, commander’s role

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Email   Print   Share By Sgt. 1st Class Ollie Green, Asst. IG, III Corps
February 3, 2011 | News
For the general population, firearm possession is not a matter of making a living, but a matter of personal choice and convenience. For those of us who serve in the military, possessing a firearm is an integral part of our employment and our livelihood. You may have heard the term “Lautenberg” before, or you may even know someone who was “Lautenberged.” This is the term commonly used when a Soldier is discharged from the military based on the effects of the Lautenberg Amendment, as it pertains to domestic violence misdemeanors and the possession of a firearm.

What is the Lautenberg Amendment? How does it affect military personnel, and regular citizen’s rights to possess a firearm? What is the commander’s role with a Soldier convicted of domestic violence?

In September 1996, an amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed establishing a comprehensive federal ban on the possession of firearms by persons convicted of a misdemeanor act of domestic violence. This amendment to the GCA, commonly referred to as the Lautenberg Amendment, prohibits persons convicted of misdemeanor or felony crimes of domestic violence from shipping, transporting, possessing or receiving firearms or ammunition. Lautenberg also prohibits knowingly selling or providing a firearm to a person who is known to have a domestic violence conviction. Soldiers are not exempt from the Lautenberg Amendment.

The definition of domestic violence varies from state to state. However, in general, any act by one member of a family or household against another resulting in some harm to the victim is considered domestic violence. Harm can include physical, bodily harm, sexual assault, or any threat that places a victim in fear of imminent harm. Domestic violence can also include violence or harm that occurs while in a dating relationship. Child abuse and sexual abuse of a child can also be considered a form of domestic violence. For a better understanding of what constitutes domestic violence please refer to the federal domestic abuse statues for your state.

If you are in the military, you must be aware that any sort of domestic violence charge can have a devastating impact on your military career that ultimately can lead to a discharge.

So what is a commander’s role with a Soldier convicted of domestic violence? Commanders will ensure all convicted Soldiers are notified it is unlawful to possess, ship, transport, or receive firearms and ammunition. Commanders will implement training instructions educating all Soldiers on the domestic violence amendment to the Gun Control Act and Department of Defense policy. Training will be accomplished at least once a year. In addition to formal training, an extract of Army Regulation 600-20, paragraph 4-23, will be displayed outside unit arms rooms and all facilities where government firearms or ammunition are stored, issued, disposed, or transported.

Soldiers have an obligation to inform their chain of command if they have, or later obtain, a qualifying conviction. DD Form 2760 (Qualification to Possess Firearms or Ammunition) will be completed on Soldiers who come forward and report a qualifying conviction. Neither the information nor evidence gained by filling out the DD Form 2760 may be used against a Soldier in any criminal prosecutions for a violation of 18 USC 922, including prosecutions under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, based on a violation of 18 USC 922 for conduct that occurred prior to the completion of the DD Form 2760. The completed DD Form 2760 will be retained and filed in the Soldier’s local military personnel file in accordance with AR 600-8-104 and AR 25-400-2.

If privately-owned firearms or ammunition are permitted in government quarters, commanders must ensure that policy and procedures are in place to enforce provisions of AR 600-20.

If a commander knows or believes a Soldier has a qualifying conviction, then he or she will immediately retrieve all government-issued firearms and ammunition and advise the Soldier to consult with a legal assistance attorney for guidance on lawful disposal or sale of any privately owned firearms and ammunition. Individuals with a qualifying conviction are exempt from weapons qualification, in accordance with AR 350-1, and will not be assigned individual weapons or ammunition.

Domestic violence is incompatible with Army values and will not be tolerated or condoned. However, Soldiers will be given a reasonable time to seek expungement of or to obtain a pardon for a qualifying conviction and may extend up to one year for that purpose. Commanders must assign Soldiers with a qualifying conviction to duties that do not involve handling weapons or ammunition. If no unit position exists, then an on-post transfer may be required.

Commanders will not appoint or assign Soldiers with qualifying convictions to leadership, supervisory, or property accountability positions requiring access to firearms or ammunition. There are many prohibited personnel actions for a Soldier with a domestic violence conviction. AR 600-20 has the complete listing.

Remember, the Lautenberg Amendment applies to civilians, as well. If you plead to any felony or a misdemeanor domestic violence offense, you will be prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm. What’s more, the ban is retroactive, meaning, if you have ever had a domestic violence conviction in your past, even before the passage of Lautenberg, you are prohibited from possessing, trading, shipping, receiving or transporting a firearm or ammunition.

The bottom line is military personnel who have a qualifying domestic violence conviction cannot possess a firearm or ammunition under Lautenberg. If you have been charged with a domestic violence offense, speak with your commander, legal assistance or local Inspector General immediately before you make any decisions that can greatly affect your future, your career and your rights under the Second Amendment.
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