In Kansas, most first time domestic violence related offenses are misdemeanors. In general, misdemeanor crimes are not as severe as most other types of crimes. The worst punishment that a person can receive on a misdemeanor crime is one year in the county jail. However, depending on the type of misdemeanor you are charged with you may have a lot more at stake than you think including losing one of your constitutional rights. Federal law prohibits purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition by someone that has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence (even a misdemeanor charge involving domestic violence).

Legislation prohibiting the sale or possession of firearms by those with a domestic violence conviction was signed into law in 1996 and is commonly known as the “Lautenberg Amendment.” How the Lautenberg Amendment defines “domestic violence crimes,” is any misdemeanor crime that is against state, federal or tribal law in which the use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon is an element to the crime. The Lautenberg Amendment also requires that the defendant be in a domestic relationship with the victim, in the context of this law domestic relationship is very broadly defined.

If you look at the most common domestic violence offense in Kansas, Domestic Battery, you will see that the definition of a “domestic violence crime,” in the Federal law is arguably met. Kansas defines domestic battery in two ways:

  1. Intentionally or recklessly causing bodily harm by a family or household member against a family or household member; or
  2. Intentionally causing physical contact with a family or household member by a family or household member when done in a rude, insulting or angry manner.

Both of these definitions arguably meet the definition of “domestic violence crimes,” as delineated in the federal law. In just a relatively short time (20 years) since the federal legislation was signed into law it has dramatically impacted the populations ability to legally obtain firearms. In fact, the baring of firearm purchases by the Lautenberg Amendment is the third most common reason that people are denied the ability to purchase a firearm only surpassed by denial because of a felony conviction or an open arrest warrant. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States have attempted to legally purchase a firearm and been denied because of the Lautenberg amendment.

Many states have enacted their own laws that are more restrictive than the federal law that prohibit the possession or purchase of firearms. Dozens of states have made more restrictive laws, to date Kansas has not enacted any.