The Context of Violence: The Lautenberg Amendment & Interpretive Issues in the Gun Control Act


Few areas of the law are as hotly debated as gun control, or as universally condemned as domestic violence – and the Supreme Court’s decisions on the Lautenberg Amendment address both. An amendment to the Gun Control Act, it prohibits persons convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from owning a firearm. The amendment qualifies a predicate conviction as one that has a “force clause” as an element. In particular, while looking at the force in domestic violence, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that one must also look to context: a “squeeze of an arm” of an intimate partner is decidedly more violent when part of a pattern of coercive behavior. In 2016, the Supreme Court in Voisine v. United States expanded the scope of the Lautenberg Amendment and decided that a reckless assault conviction qualified as a “use of force.” Since the Court announced the decision, the government is asking circuit and district courts to construe Voisine’s holding beyond the realm of domestic violence law and to another section of the Gun Control Act containing a force clause: the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). By analyzing the tensions underlying current Supreme Court domestic violence jurisprudence, and finding the ACCA to be inapposite, this note argues that the inconsistent mens rea requirements of the predicate crimes contemplated be kept separate. This note provides a framework for Congress to bolster the Amendment’s enforceability, while avoiding interpretive spillover in the Gun Control Act

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Last time updated on 23/07/2019

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