Families across all walks of life can experience domestic violence and military families are by no means immune. One might argue that military families are under much more strain than a typical American family, which can lead to arguments and even physical conflicts. Although many domestic violence arrests result in misdemeanor charges that may not seem like a serious matter, for service members, the stakes can be much higher than they seem.
Understanding the laws involving firearms
The Gun Control Act of 1968 contains a section known as the Lautenberg Amendment, which bars anyone convicted of domestic violence from possessing or owning firearms or ammunition. This law has two elements and covers anyone who:
- Is charged with a misdemeanor domestic violence offense AND
- Is convicted of the charge
A conviction can occur in state court, federal court, special court martial or general court martial. It does not include an Article 15 non-judicial punishment, a summary court martial or a charge that goes through a military diversion program. The service member has the responsibility for reporting their conviction to command.
How does this affect soldiers?
Though this law can affect anyone convicted of a domestic violence charge, it has particularly severe consequences for those who must use a firearm in their work. The Lautenberg Amendment contains no exception for military service personnel, even those deployed overseas. Such a conviction can lead to the following impacts on the soldier:
- Barred from reenlisting
- Prohibited from deployment for missions requiring firearms
- Transferred to duties not requiring possession of firearms or ammunition
As you can see, these impacts can effectively end a military career.
What can you do?
If you are facing domestic violence charges, you need to take action to protect your career. Seek legal help immediately in order to take advantage of all your options and protect your future. You can fight the charges and may be eligible for a military diversion program. If you already have a conviction, you may have options for expunging your record.