The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is pleased to share important news about a recent Supreme Court decision that will enhance the ability of federal prosecutors to keep guns out of the hands of batterers. On March 26, the Court unanimously ruled in United States v. Castleman that federal law makes it a crime for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, however minor, to possess guns. In 1996, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(9), sometimes called the Lautenberg Amendment, which bars any person convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a gun. In passing this law, Congress closed a dangerous loophole in federal gun control laws: those convicted of felonies faced gun ownership prohibitions, but this did not cover most domestic abusers because most domestic violence convictions were for misdemeanor assault and battery. However, federal authorities have faced challenges enforcing this law because federal circuit courts were split on how severe the force used in a domestic violence offense needed to be to qualify as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” under the federal statute. In Castleman, the Supreme Court resolved this question by issuing a broad interpretation of the term “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” holding that convictions involving only “bodily injury” or “offensive touching” could qualify under the statute. Justice Sotomayor, writing for the majority, recognized that “‘[d]omestic violence’ is not merely a type of ‘violence’; it is a term of art encompassing acts that one might not characterize as ‘violent’ in a nondomestic context.” The Court further stated that, while a squeeze of the arm that causes a bruise may not be able to be described as “violence” in every context, “an act of this nature is easy to describe as ‘domestic violence,’ when the accumulation of such acts over time can subject one intimate partner to the other’s control.” With this decision, the Supreme Court confirms what we know all too well – that guns should not be in the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence. Abusers use guns to control their partners through intimidation, threats, coercion, and injury. But most startling are the statistics we know about domestic violence homicides. We know that women in abusive relationships are six times more likely to be killed when there is a gun in the house. We know that on average three women are killed every day in the United States by a current or former partner, and women killed by their intimate partners are more likely to be killed with a gun than by all other methods combined. We also know that limiting access to guns saves lives – in the states that require a background check with every handgun sale, there are 38% fewer women killed by guns than in states that do not. We appreciate that the Supreme Court recognized the power and control dynamics that put victims of domestic violence in danger, particularly when coupled with access to guns. It is heartening to read the decision and realize how far our society has moved in taking seriously the issue of domestic violence. For this, we owe our gratitude to those who have labored so hard and long to move public opinion, including those national and state organizations that, in a persuasive amicus brief, urged the Court to adopt a common-sense definition of domestic violence: the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, Legal Momentum, and a host of state domestic violence coalitions. We look forward to continuing to work together to make our country a safer place for all victims and survivors. For more information about domestic violence and firearms, please contact: National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit Battered Women’s Justice Project National District Attorneys Association International Association of Chiefs of Police National Counsel of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
April 11, 2014
October 30, 2013
Courtesy of Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason When President Obama proclaimed October Domestic Violence Awareness month on September 30, he noted the progress made since the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). He singled out the fact that domestic violence is no longer hidden behind the closed doors of the home, but has been brought into the national arena as a matter of grave social concern. “We have changed our laws, transformed our culture, and improved support...
Updated September 15, 2014
October 24, 2013
This October, as we recognize National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Office on Violence Against Women joins communities across our country in celebrating the tremendous progress we have made over the past nineteen years in creating safer homes, safer communities and a safer Nation. Unfortunately, this message is clouded by the recent government shutdown that coincided with the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the continued financial insecurity organizations, tribes,...
Updated July 26, 2016
November 20, 2013
It is with great pride that I share the announcement of the new DOJ policy on addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the workplace . Given the seriousness of these crimes and their impact on employees, we believe this is an important step toward creating a workplace that is safe for all staff. Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the release of the policy at OVW’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month event earlier today. DOJ is the first major federal agency to...
Updated October 22, 2014
January 4, 2012
The following post appears courtesy of Susan B. Carbon, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women The Office on Violence Against Women proudly joins the President in recognizing January as National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). Stalking is described by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics as, “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear for his or her safety or the safety of someone close such as a family member...
Updated May 6, 2016
Updated July 26, 2016