The Department of Defense (DoD) issued today the "Interim Policy for Implementation of Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Amendment to the Gun Control Act for Military Personnel." The policy implements the amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968 which makes it a felony for anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to ship, transport, possess or receive firearms or ammunition. The amendment also makes it a felony for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of a firearm to any person so convicted. The law applies to anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, to include active duty and reserve component military personnel and DoD civilian personnel, both appropriated and nonappropriated fund.
Since service members routinely carry weapons in the performance of their duties, including during training and on deployments, the Department of Defense has been working with the Treasury Department and the Department of Justice to resolve a number of complex issues so that the law can be applied fully, fairly, and consistently throughout the Services. The interim policy for military personnel achieves those goals without detracting from readiness or impinging on individual rights. The policy for military personnel is effective immediately. A similar implementation policy for DoD civilian personnel has been conveyed as required to labor unions having national consultation rights with DoD, and will be issued after those consultations.
Domestic violence plagues American society as a whole. The Department of Defense is committed to the prevention of domestic violence, and has taken a leadership role in that critical area. Through the Family Advocacy Program, the military provides a host of prevention, support, counseling and treatment programs for domestic violence. The policy issued today further enhances the DoD's efforts to prevent domestic violence.
Key features of the DoD interim policy for military personnel:
- Commanders and supervisors must take immediate steps to retrieve weapons and ammunition from any service member who has a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
- Major military weapons systems such as tanks and crew-served weapons are not considered firearms within the meaning of the law.
- Permanent adverse personnel actions, including discharges and separations, may not be taken against service members based solely on a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence committed on or before Sept. 30, 1996, the day the legislation was enacted. Conviction of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" does not include a summary court-martial conviction or imposition of nonjudicial punishment (Article 15, Uniform Code of Military Justice) or deferred prosecutions or similar alternative dispositions in a civilian court.
- Service members with qualifying convictions for acts of domestic violence occurring after Sept. 30, 1996, may be discharged or separated if a basis for discharge or separation exists under applicable existing regulations and directives.
- Commanders may take actions, such as reclassifications, reassignments, and temporary details, to ensure the best use of military personnel discovered to have qualifying convictions.
- The amendment will be construed to apply outside United States territory as a matter of DoD policy.
- The policy includes a disclosure form for service members to complete and sign. Completion of the form is voluntary, but failure to complete the form may result in the revocation of an individual's authority to transfer, possess or receive firearms and ammunition. Furnishing false information may result in criminal or administrative proceedings and sanctions. Members who have questions or concerns may consult with an attorney before completing the form.
- Individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses will not be granted waivers for entrance into military service.
A joint-Service working group will be established to resolve associated personnel policy issues, to include those concerning assignments, recruiting, retention, and training, and develop a final DoD policy.