The Lautenberg Amendment is a nickname for an amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968. The 104th United States Congress, meeting in Washington, D.C., between 3 January 1995 and 3 January 1997, enacted it in 1996. It is named after Frank Lautenberg, the Congressman who proposed the amendment and was the senator from the state of New Jersey from 1982 to 2001. The Lautenberg Amendment is officially known as the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, and it is codified as 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(9).
The Gun Control Act of 1968 is a significant piece of legislation in that it regulates the firearms industry by banning transfers in interstate commerce except by licensed firearm makers, dealers and importers. Effective 30 September 1996, the Lautenberg Amendment in particular makes it unlawful for people who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to receive, possess, ship or transport any firearm or ammunition in interstate or foreign commerce. It also makes it a felony to send firearms or ammunition to anyone that has been convicted of such a crime.
Soldiers and law enforcement officers who rely on firearms and ammunition on their jobs are not exempt from Lautenberg Amendment, since it applies to privately owned weapons. Soldiers with a conviction of domestic violence could be prevented from going on missions or appointed to positions that require use of firearms. In some cases, such servicemen may be discharged, an action now nicknamed “Lautenberged.” Some police officers with such an offense have been dismissed in a similar fashion.
Such far-reaching effects have led some people to question the legality and constitutionality of the Lautenberg Amendment. Its opponents believe that it contradicts the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While the right to keep and bear arms is protected under this constitutional amendment, opponents argue that the Gun Control Act amendment makes it revocable. Others rely on the Tenth Amendment, arguing that making a federal crime out of firearm and ammunition possession because of a state conviction runs contrary to the principle of reserving powers not granted by the federal government for the states of the Union.
Since the enactment of the Lautenberg Amendment, some states—notably Arkansas and Montana—have challenged it under the Second Amendment, and it has been tested on the federal court level. The Supreme Court, however, has held firmly to the ruling that Congress has the right to regulate all items of commerce under the Interstate Commerce Clause, which actually does not stipulate the range of such power.