Shaheen Joins Letter Calling for Protection of Survivors of Domestic Gun Violence through Full Enforcement of ‘Lautenberg Amendment’

May 03, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined a letter led by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take additional steps to ensure federal law enforcement agencies fully comply with the Lautenberg Amendment. The Lautenberg Amendment makes it a felony for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to ship, transport, receive or possess firearms without exceptions for law enforcement officers. Since its enactment as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968, murders of intimate female partners have dropped by 17%, according to a 2017 Stanford University study.

“We are writing to urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take additional steps to ensure federal law enforcement agencies are in full compliance with the Lautenberg Amendment,” said the Senators. “In light of the recent sharp uptick in mass shootings and the escalating gun violence crisis in underserved communities, it is more critical than ever that federal agencies fully enforce all relevant existing laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”

They continued: “We look forward to working with you to ensure DHS is doing everything required under current law to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose an unacceptable risk. Thank you for your efforts to date and your prompt attention to this timely matter.”

Last year, the DHS Inspector General (IG) reported that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) failed to screen their agents for domestic abusers through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) databases. The IG investigation also revealed these agencies, along with the Secret Service and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), failed to provide required domestic violence awareness training to law enforcement officers. Following these serious revelations, the new administration has already taken critical steps to ensure law enforcement agencies are complying with the life-saving Lautenberg Amendment; however, questions remain.

Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also signed onto the letter.

Throughout the pandemic, Senator Shaheen has worked to provide more resources and services to domestic violence survivors nationwide. She helped lead calls to Congressional leadership to include additional funding to support the victims of child abuse, domestic violence and dating violence in COVID-19 response legislation. Shaheen helped introduce legislation with Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) that would close what is referred to as the “boyfriend loophole” to prevent people who have abused dating partners from buying or owning firearms and stop convicted stalkers from possessing guns. She also recently helped introduce the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, which is narrowly crafted to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to legally obtain weapons.

Shaheen is a leader in Congress on efforts to combat domestic and sexual violence, and to bolster resources to help survivors stay safe, recover and seek justice. Last year, she visited the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) in Concord where she met with NHCADSV’s leadership and representatives from crisis centers to hear more about the impact COVID-19 has had on survivors and the state’s crisis centers.

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to establish basic rights and protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Her bill, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, was signed into law in 2016 and created the first federally codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors and for the first time allowed survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. In 2019, Shaheen introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act to build on the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act by incentivizing states to pass legislation that guarantees the survivors rights included in the federal legislation. Senator Shaheen – through her leadership on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) – once again successfully added the highest funding amount ever for Violence Against Women Act programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 government funding

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Secretary Mayorkas,

We are writing to urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take additional steps to ensure federal law enforcement agencies are in full compliance with the Lautenberg Amendment. While we appreciate the actions your agency’s representative described in her response to our February 5, 2021 letter, we believe DHS can do more to prevent domestic abusers from accessing and possessing firearms. In light of the recent sharp uptick in mass shootings and the escalating gun violence crisis in underserved communities, it is more critical than ever that federal agencies fully enforce all existing laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

The Lautenberg Amendment prohibits individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from possessing firearms. There is no exception for law enforcement officers. In November 2020, the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the United States Secret Service (USSS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were not fully complying with DHS’s Lautenberg Amendment implementation guidelines. 

We commend DHS for taking action in response to the OIG’s findings and our previous letter, including the reinstatement of the central office tasked with ensuring DHS-wide compliance with the Lautenberg Amendment. Despite this important progress, we believe there may still be gaps in compliance. For example, the OIG’s report stated that none of the DHS law enforcement agencies provided the required annual domestic violence prevention trainings. While your office’s March 26, 2021 response letter indicated that the agencies updated their official policies to require such trainings, it is unclear if and when agencies implemented the trainings.

Additionally, the OIG’s report found that CBP and ICE were not using FBI’s databases to monitor the arrests and convictions of law enforcement officers. These systems flag domestic abuse convictions and are helpful for ensuring compliance with the Lautenberg Amendment. Your agency’s response letter noted that ICE is on track to implement an alternative database by the end of 2021, but provided no information regarding CBP’s progress in this area.

In light of these concerns, we would appreciate responses to the following questions no later than May 14, 2021:

  1. Your agency’s response letter stated that DHS’s Law Enforcement Policy team will “ensure DHS-wide compliance with relevant domestic violence trainings.” What is the status of such trainings at CBP, USSS, TSA, and ICE? Please provide any available statistics regarding the implementation of the required domestic violence prevention trainings at each of the four listed agencies.
  2. Your agency’s response letter stated that ICE is in the process of implementing a database to monitor the arrests and convictions of its law enforcement officers. TSA and USSS already have such systems in place. Is CBP implementing a similar database to flag domestic abuse convictions? If so, please provide a brief description and an implementation timeline for both ICE and CBP.
  3. The OIG’s November 2020 report found that CBP and USSS were not requiring their law enforcement officers to complete the required annual Lautenberg Amendment certification stating they have no domestic violence misdemeanor convictions. In the case of USSS, the OIG specifically stated the annual statement of compliance the contents of the Secret Service Law Enforcement Manual was insufficient. Have CBP and USSS implemented the compliant Lautenberg Amendment certification processes? If so, please provide a brief description and implementation timelines for the certification processes at CBP and USSS.

Finally, we respectfully reiterate our request that your agency report back to Congress within six months of receipt of our initial February 5, 2021 letter regarding its progress towards achieving full compliance with the Lautenberg Amendment.

We look forward to working with you to ensure DHS is doing everything required under current law to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose an unacceptable risk. Thank you for your efforts to date and your prompt attention to this timely matter. 

###