I am almost hesitant to write this column because the information you are about to receive is not widely known and will be shocking to some. However, I do think that the public should be aware of how our rights under the 2nd Amendment can be affected by our actions.
Everyone knows that convicted felons cannot legally possess firearms in Georgia. However, there is a federal law that in my opinion impedes the right of people convicted of misdemeanors under the Georgia’s Family Violence Act (FVA) to possess firearms as well. This law could even be interpreted to take away gun rights of people convicted of other misdemeanors not charged under the FVA.
In 1968, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (The Act) was signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson to broadly regulate the firearms industry and firearms owners. In 1996, the “Lautenberg Amendment” added a striking provision to The Act by prohibiting citizens from possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a “Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence.”
Before I go further, it should be noted that a person shall not be considered to have been convicted of such an offense under The Act if the conviction has been expunged or set aside, or is an offense for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored.
According to the website for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is:
(1) a misdemeanor under Federal or State law;
(2) has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon; and
(3) was committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.
This federal definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence seems to fit within the parameters of Georgia’s Family Violence Act. It also seems that if a person is charged with a battery, assault, or other misdemeanor crime involving family members, that person could lose their 2nd Amendment rights even though he or she was not necessarily charged under the FVA.
I am no fan of family violence. Repeat offenders under the FVA should be punished severely. However, there are thousands of cases in Georgia every year when a couple gets into a heated argument that leads to poor judgment. Oftentimes, these are once in a lifetime occurrences. These people should not have their gun rights placed in jeopardy.
While sometimes misdemeanors are not taken as seriously as they should, if a lawful gun owner is ever charged in Georgia with a misdemeanor offense under the FVA, an offense involving family members, or involving violence, that person needs the assistance of counsel in navigating their case.
Each case is different. However, there are a number of ways that convictions can be avoided. If you care about your guns, the obvious advice is to remain lawful and avoid getting arrested for any crimes. If you do happen to get arrested, it would be wise to keep this federal law in mind when dealing with your case.