gavel and firearm

COVID-19, the Lautenberg Amendment, and Your Military Career

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence cases have increased. The uptick is likely due to the changes in social and economic landscapes. Many more people are at home, either because they're working or attending school from home or have lost their jobs.

Increased household and family member interactions can cause more significant conflicts that result in arguments that can escalate into physical altercations. An alleged victim may call the police to report that their household or family member has harmed or threatened to harm them, triggering an arrest and/or charge for domestic violence.

It is very important to speak to an attorney is you are accused of a crime of domestic violence. A conviction for a domestic violence offense can lead to harsh sanctions, such as confinement. And under the Lautenberg Amendment, it could mean the loss of your gun rights. If you're a military member, being barred from possessing a firearm could have adverse impacts on your career. Fortunately, you may pursue post-conviction relief options to restore your gun rights, effectively removing career-based restrictions.

What Is the Lautenberg Amendment?

The Lautenberg Amendment is part of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968. It provides that if a person is convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense, they lose their gun rights.

Under the law, it is a crime for anyone to sell, transfer, or provide a firearm to a person with a qualifying conviction. It's also unlawful for the convicted individual to take possession of a gun transported or shipped across state or country lines.

The Lautenberg Amendment applies to civilians and members of the armed forces – that includes military personnel stationed in the U.S. or overseas.

What Is a Qualifying Conviction?

According to the Lautenberg Amendment, a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction will trigger the loss of gun rights.

Domestic violence is defined as physical force, attempted use of physical force, or threatened use of a deadly weapon against someone the alleged offender has a specific relationship with.

An offense is considered domestic violence if it is committed against any of the following:

  • Current or former spouse
  • Parent
  • Guardian
  • Person with whom the alleged offender shares a child or children
  • Person whom the alleged offender is currently living with or previously lived with as a spouse, parent, or guardian

For the Lautenberg Amendment to apply to your case, you must have been convicted in state or federal court or through a general or special court-martial. If you were convicted through a summary court-martial or an Article 15 non-judicial punishment, you would not be subject to the firearm ban.

How Can the Lautenberg Amendment Affect My Military Career?

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense and banned from possessing a firearm, you could be subject to several career-related sanctions.

You may be barred from:

  • Reenlisting
  • Attending service schools with firearm instructions
  • Promoting to a higher grade
  • Deploying overseas
  • Being assigned to duties requiring the use of weapons or ammunition

How Can I Restore My Firearm Rights?

Depending on your circumstances, you might have legal options for getting your firearm rights back. For instance, you may seek to be granted a pardon for the offense or restore your civil rights. To get a better understanding of what avenues you can explore, contact our military criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of Sean Flood PLLC. We'll answer your questions and discuss the processes with you.

Call us at (931) 288-5995 or submit an online contact form today.