Sunday, October 20, 2019

Interesting Side Effect of Lautenberg Amendment

You may recall that the Lautenberg Amendment made domestic violence misdemeanor convictions into a gun disqualifier.  I used to wonder why misdemeanor convictions were so worthy of firearms bans.  Then I was out ego-surfing (finding cases that referenced my work) and I read a case from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, US v. Chester, 628 F. 3d 673 (4th Cir. 2010):
On April 26, 2004, Chester savagely attacked his 22-year-old daughter, Meghan Chester ("Meghan"). Apparently, their dispute arose over what Meghan had eaten for lunch that day. In this attack, Chester slammed his daughter on the kitchen table. Meghan attempted to leave but Chester followed her, threatened her, and punched her in the face. Meghan fell to the floor in pain, but Chester continued to attack her. He began kicking her as she lay on the ground, and also dumped buckets of water over his daughter's head. After her father "beat her up and assault[ed] her" for some time, J.A. 41, Meghan escaped from her father and locked herself in the bathroom. Eventually, Chester left the residence and Meghan's mother took Meghan to the hospital. Meghan had a swollen nose and a knot on her forehead.
Why this was a misedemeanor conviction and not attempted murder or at least aggravated assault, either a felony, makes me suspect that domestic violence is not taken very seriously in some parts of America.  My daughter's experiences working with thugs like this in court-ordered counseling suggests Idaho is also in that category.  (Judge asks wife if she really wants to pursue this matter because he won't be able to hunt, or for peace officers, lose his job.) Suddenly this weird extension of felony disqualifier makes tragic sense, especially because the defendant had learned nothing based on subsequent actions:

In October 2007, officers from the Kanawha County, West Virginia, Sheriff's Department responded to a 911 call reporting a domestic disturbance at Chester's residence. Chester's wife reported to the officers that Chester grabbed her throat and threatened to kill her after she caught him receiving the services of a prostitute on their property. In a subsequent search of the home, officers recovered a 12-gauge shotgun in the kitchen pantry and a 9mm handgun in the bedroom. Chester admitted both firearms belonged to him.
I am hoping that this was a subsequent wife.  Charming guy.  Anyway, all of this is leading up to this article at
State law in Nevada prohibits people who have misdemeanor domestic violence charges from owning a firearm. But the state law forgot about a more universal law, the law of unintended consequences. 

The State Supreme Court has ruled that because removing a right is a big deal, they must have the option to be tried by a jury for their misdemeanor to save their gun rights.  The problem is that misdemeanors are generally tried in municipal courts, not large courtrooms. The smaller courts have no place for juries.
So cities are having to change their municipal courts to handle this question of adjudicating what results in denial of Second Amendment rights and deprivation of "life, liberty, or property" which requires due process under the 14th Amendment.


  1. If it is serious enough to lose your gun rights, it should be a felony. We need a bright line delineating this.

  2. I agree, just explaining why Congress was willing to make a misdemeanor a firearms disqualifier: states were not treating felony crimes as such.