Lautenberg Amendment has serious ramifications for Marines

29 Apr 2005 | 1st Lt. John R. Seeds

If you call yourself a Marine and are a gun owner, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Title 18, United States Code, Sec 922), as amended on September 30, 1996, could have serious consequences on not only your right to possess a firearm, but on your eligibility to remain in the Marine Corps.

Lautenberg’s main effort makes it a felony for any individual convicted of the misdemeanor crime of domestic violence—regardless of when the conviction occurred— to ship, transport, possess or receive firearms or ammunition. Currently there is no exception for military personnel or for military-issued weapons. A Lautenberg-triggering conviction also includes crimes of domestic violence tried by a general or special court-martial.

In application, this law strips the individual Marine of his government-issued M-16 in addition to his personal firearm. More likely than not, a Marine who cannot lawfully possess an M-16 will be administratively separated. Before separation occurs, commanders must afford the Marine, among other things, an opportunity to complete a DD 2760 and a chance to meet with a military attorney.

However, the amendment is applied differently to the deployed Marine. Commanders of deployed units who learn that one of his Marines has a domestic violence conviction cannot restrict that Marine’s access to weapons or ammunition. Restricting a Marine’s access to weapons and ammunition under these circumstances could inhibit unit safety and readiness, but when the unit returns from deployment, a commander can take steps to limit the Marine’s access to weapons and ammunition and can order the Marine to lawfully dispose of privately owned firearms and ammunition.

Recruiters now implement a strict screening process to verify new recruits have a clean record so old convictions cannot surface later to haunt Marines and cause unit strife.

We are approaching the 10-year anniversary for the Lautenberg legislation, but with the drastic consequences it could have on Marines, it is never to late to review Lautenberg’s dire underpinnings.

Headquarters Marine Corps