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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / State & Federal Law Restrict Domestic Abusers’ Firearm Rights

State & Federal Law Restrict Domestic Abusers’ Firearm Rights


The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution establishes the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” While U.S. courts have historically extended that right to be able to possess a variety of dangerous firearms, they have also carved out exceptions that take the right to bear arms away from individuals if they commit certain crimes or meet other criteria. One of the major instances in which this right can be taken from someone is if they are convicted of a crime of domestic violence, or if they are the subject of a domestic violence injunction.

Federal Law Is Unambiguous

The federal 1968 Gun Control Act and its later amendments prohibit two groups of people from legally possessing firearms: (1) anyone convicted of a felony; and (2) anyone who is subject to a domestic violence protection order. Later, in 1996, the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban (referred to colloquially as the Lautenberg Amendment) also criminalized firearm and ammunition possession for those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. Florida’s law also prohibits those with a domestic violence-related order of protection against them from possessing firearms or ammunition.

The U.S. Congress explicitly stated that the rationale for passing the Lautenberg Amendment specifically was that “anyone who … threatens violence against a loved one has demonstrated” that they pose an “unacceptable risk” to other people, and Florida’s legislature has agreed. Firearms are inherently dangerous weapons, and while the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, the general consensus in both state and federal courts has been that a person’s right to bear arms must be balanced against another person’s right to life and liberty. In cases where it is necessary, the right to bear arms must be removed.

The Consequences Are Serious

If you have been convicted of a crime of domestic violence in Florida, and your alleged victim has sought an order of protection against you during the case, be advised that both the GCA and Florida’s law can be used to take any firearms or ammunition that you might have had in your “care, custody, possession, or control.” It is important to be aware that before the Lautenberg Amendment’s passage in 1996, the GCA had a ‘public interest exception,’ which allowed those in certain professions (such as law enforcement or the military) to retain their right to carry weapons – but the Amendment stripped that exception away.

A failure to comply with the terms of the Amendment is a felony, and it is a federal felony, punishable by imprisonment and fines. In addition, a federal conviction is almost impossible to expunge – which would be the only conceivable way of restoring your firearm rights if you are convicted. It is far better to be able to avoid being subject to the Lautenberg Amendment in the first place.

Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is crucial to take the charge seriously. In addition to facing prison time and fines, those convicted can lose other rights – including the right to keep and bear arms, as that right is never absolute. A West Palm Beach criminal attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help answer any questions you may have about the legal process. Call our office today at (561) 721-0552 to speak to an attorney.



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