Article Title

Domestic Violence and Gun Control: Determining the Proper Interpretation of “Physical Force" in the Implementation of the Lautenberg Amendment

Publication Title

Washington University Journal of Law & Policy


Beginning in the late 1970s, legislative efforts to prevent domestic violence addressed the most violent crimes that often lead to death, particularly those crimes committed with firearms.8 A major effort to prevent such fatal results is the Lautenberg Amendment, which makes it unlawful for an individual "'convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence' to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition in or affecting commerce." The Lautenberg Amendment, passed in 1996, amends the Gun Control Act of 1968 ("GCA"), which defines the term "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" to include "the use or attempted use of physical force. . . ." This Note provides an overview of the legislative history of the Lautenberg Amendment and discusses the prior and subsequent legislative, sociological, and community efforts to combat and prevent domestic violence. In particular, this Note examines and critiques the circuit split over the interpretation of the GCA's "physical force" requirement. Finally, this Note proposes allowing for more latitude in judicial interpretation of the Lautenberg Amendment and the associated laws that combat domestic violence.