Peters & Menendez Lead Push for DHS to Enforce ‘Lautenberg Amendment’ to Keep Firearms Out of Hands of Domestic Abusers

Federal law enforcement agencies failed to screen their ranks for domestic abusers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators  Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today led several of their colleagues in urging the Department of Homeland Security to establish a zero-tolerance stance for domestic violence and take immediate steps to enforce a federal law that keeps firearms out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a restraining law—including those who carry a federal badge.

The statute, known as the “Lautenberg Amendment” to the Gun Control Act of 1968, is named for the late New Jersey U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and has resulted in a 17% drop in murders of intimate female partners, according to a 2017 Stanford University study.  The amendment makes it a felony for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to ship, transport, receive or possess firearms without exceptions for federal law enforcement officers.

“Regrettably, some of the nation’s law enforcement agencies charged with protecting the public have failed to comply with this important law,” the Senators wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.  “We request that DHS act swiftly to ensure that federal law enforcement meaningfully addresses domestic violence within its ranks.  In addition to mandating domestic violence training at all DHS law enforcement agencies, we request that you take action to ensure that all federal officers are appropriately screened for domestic violence convictions on an ongoing basis.”

The DHS Inspector General (IG) found last year that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) failed to screen their agents for domestic abusers through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) databases.  The IG investigation also revealed these agencies, along with the Secret Service and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), failed to provide required domestic violence awareness training to law enforcement officers.

The Senators also requested DHS report back to Congress within six months on its progress implementing the Lautenberg Amendment to ensure full compliance.

Joining Peters and Menendez on the letter are U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Edward Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

Full text of the letter is below and available here.

Dear Secretary Mayorkas:

We are writing to request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) establish a clear zero-tolerance stance for domestic violence and take immediate steps to enforce the current federal law known as the “Lautenberg Amendment.” It is imperative that DHS keep firearms out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a restraining order.

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Congress adopted an amendment by former Senator Frank Lautenberg to prevent domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.   The Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968 makes it a felony for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to ship, transport, receive or possess firearms. There are no exceptions for federal law enforcement officers. A 2017 Stanford study found that implementing this amendment resulted in a seventeen percent decrease in murders of intimate female partners. 

Regrettably, some of the nation’s law enforcement agencies charged with protecting the public have failed to comply with this important law. Last year, the DHS Inspector General found that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) failed to check their agents through the FBI databases that would have flagged domestic abusers.  In addition, the Inspector General noted that CBP, ICE, Secret Service, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) neglected to provide the required domestic violence awareness training to law enforcement officers.

We request that DHS act swiftly to ensure that federal law enforcement meaningfully addresses domestic violence within its ranks. In addition to mandating domestic violence training at all DHS law enforcement agencies, we request that you take action to ensure that all federal officers are appropriately screened for domestic violence convictions on an ongoing basis.  Finally, we respectfully ask that you report back to Congress within six months of receipt of this letter on your progress to ensure that DHS is fully compliant with the Lautenberg Amendment.

Thank you for your attention to this serious issue.  We look forward to working with you on this important issue.

 

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