By: Teresa Mull
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has announced the Justice Department’s formation of a working group tasked with finding ways to take more guns out of the hands of more people.
“Too often, domestic abusers start with threats and abuse, and end up committing extreme violence and even homicide, with devastating impact on families and the community around them,” Barr said in a press release announcing the Domestic Violence Working Group (DVWG). “I have directed this working group to examine this issue and determine the best way to use federal gun prosecutions and other appropriate tools to supplement state, local and tribal efforts to address domestic violence.”
According to U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox, DVWG chair, the group will work to “supplement our state and local partners’ efforts to curb domestic violence with federal prosecutions.”
The Justice Department press release says, “Federal law has long barred convicted felons, as well as individuals subject to certain domestic violence protective orders…from possessing firearms” (emphasis added), which could open the door to taking guns away from people who have simply been accused of domestic violence, but not convicted.
Gun Control Doom for 2020?
Ryan Flugaur, Senior Political Director at the National Association for Gun Rights, says President Trump can’t afford to be anymore anti-gun.
“President Trump should immediately order a stop to Attorney General Barr’s thinly-veiled gun control ‘working group,’ which is set to advance deadly Clinton-era gun control policy and promote the failed politics of trying to placate the anti-gun media ahead of a critical election year,” Flugaur told GPM. “The best way to stop violent domestic abusers is to empower women with the tools they need to defend themselves. That means repealing – not expanding – the flawed 1990’s gun control law, known as Lautenberg, which in twenty years has been disarming scores of victims.
“Sponsoring gun control already cost vulnerable Republicans the House in 2018,” Flugaur continued. “Averting a similar disaster in 2020 starts with President Trump killing this ‘working group’ and making it clear he’ll veto any version of H.R. 1585 containing gun control, especially Lautenberg expansion.”
Flaws with Lautenberg
The law the DVWG will be seeking to expand in its enforcement is known as the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, called the “Lautenberg Amendment” after late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) who sponsored the bill in 1996.
Lautenberg created a federal ban on gun possession by those convicted of domestic violence and was the first law to place a blanket federal gun ban on a wide range of misdemeanor level conduct.
“It also barred those subject to varying types of restraining orders, even if no crime was committed or no criminal charges were filed, from possessing a firearm,” Flugaur said.
Gun Owners of America provides an eye-opening explanation of the many flaws inherent in Lautenberg:
WHAT TYPE OF MISDEMEANOR CONVICTION WOULD CAUSE ME TO BECOME A “PROHIBITED PERSON”?
The Lautenberg language defines “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include a misdemeanor that involves “the use or attempted use of physical force” against a family member. Hence, any actual or attempted violence against a spouse or son or daughter would certainly, if prosecuted successfully as a misdemeanor, subject you to a lifetime gun ban. In many jurisdictions, spanking your kids could result in a conviction which would prohibit you from ever again owning a firearm.
WOULD THE MISDEMEANOR HAVE TO INVOLVE VIOLENCE OR ATTEMPTED VIOLENCE?
No. We have seen that a misdemeanor involving violence (however slight) or attempted violence against a spouse, son, or daughter would certainly be covered. But the definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” goes on to include “the threatened use of a deadly weapon.” Thus, a threat against a family member would also subject the offender to a lifetime gun ban, even if the threat were joking or the person making the threat did not have the wherewithal to carry it out.
DOES THE NEW LAW APPLY TO PAST CRIMES?
Yes. A misdemeanor committed fifty years ago would still subject an individual to a lifetime gun ban, even if he or she has lived a happily married life with the “victim” during the intervening period.
WHAT ABOUT BATTERED WOMEN WHO DEFENDED THEMSELVES?
There is no exemption for battered women who received minor misdemeanor convictions after they used force to defend themselves against their battering spouses. There are many battered women who fall into this category. They will now be unable to use firearms to protect themselves against their abusive and threatening husbands, even if they feel that their lives are endangered.
WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM IMPLICATIONS OF THE LAW?
Because the law now imposes lifetime gun bans on persons who, in some cases, have engaged in no actual violence or attempted violence, it will only be a matter of time before anti-gun activists try to impose lifetime guns bans in non-domestic situations of minor misdemeanors involving violence (such as fist fights). Ultimately, an effort to impose a lifetime gun ban on all persons convicted of misdemeanors will be made.
“Unfortunately, Barr’s made it clear his ‘working group’ stands behind this deadly law, just as the U.S. Senate’s about to consider a Nancy Pelosi-backed bill, H.R. 1585, to radically expand it by stripping gun rights from more law-abiding Americans,” Flugaur said. “Like the original unconstitutional law, this bill strips gun rights retroactively based on past allegations, and many victims would lose their rights for life without ever being charged with a crime.”
Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.