[Congressional Record Volume 142, Number 135 (Thursday, September 26, 1996)]
[Page S11363]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[[Page S11363]]

                             GUN POSSESSION

  Mr. LAUTENBERG. Mr. President, I want to talk about a piece of 
legislation that I have proposed that was approved here in this body by 
a vote of 97 to 2. They approved an amendment that I sponsored to ban 
wife beaters and child abusers from owning guns, from possessing guns. 
Yet, over the past couple of days, behind closed doors, there has been 
a determined effort to gut my proposal and to expose the battered woman 
and the abused child to an enraged man with a gun in his hand.
  As I explained yesterday, there has been an attempt to undermine the 
proposal in four primary ways:
  First, some sought to exclude child abusers from the ban by limiting 
its application only to ``intimate partners.''
  Second, they sought to effectively give a waiver to every wife beater 
and child abuser who was convicted before this legislation goes into 
  Third, they sought to render the ban entirely ineffective in the 
future by excusing anyone who did not get notice of the firearm ban 
when they were originally charged. So that includes all of those who 
committed domestic abuse, beat up their wives, beat up their kids who 
weren't told in advance there may be a serious penalty to take away 
their guns. What a pity. Instead, what they want to do, realistically, 
is make it prospective only. For those who didn't get notice, they can 
perhaps dodge out of a charge by saying, well, I did not get effective 
notice. It is a pity. Under my proposal--the language was in there very 
specifically, and we are going to insist it be retained.
  Fourth, the watered-down language would excuse from the firearm ban 
anyone who was convicted in a trial heard by a judge only, as opposed 
to a jury. Now, this also, by itself, would render the gun ban largely 
meaningless, since most domestic violence cases are heard by judges and 
not juries.
  Mr. President, faced with public criticism, opponents of a real ban 
have apparently retreated on one of these gutting provisions. They have 
agreed to language that ostensibly would put child abusers back within 
the ban.
  Mr. President, it is critical to understand that this latest change 
is merely a figleaf. It is designed to obscure the fact that the 
watered-down proposal would leave virtually all wife beaters and child 
abusers with the ability to legally possess guns. It is purely a 
legislative sham, and no one should be fooled into believing otherwise.
  Let me tell those who are within earshot what this sham is all about. 
First, under their proposed modifications of my legislation, no wife 
beater or child abuser would be prohibited from having firearms unless 
they had been told about the ban when they were originally charged. 
What a device for a clever defense--well, he didn't hear it, he didn't 
understand it, or his language wasn't up to snuff. My goodness.
  The first effect of this language, Mr. President, is to completely 
excuse every wife beater and child abuser who has been convicted until 
this time. They would all be off the hook completely. We didn't know, 
we weren't aware, we weren't told; so, therefore, forget it. OK, be 
careful next time you hit your wife. Next time, don't have a gun 
present. They would all be off the hook completely. All of their 
battered wives and abused children would remain at risk of gun 

  Mr. President, it would be bad enough if this extreme proposal only 
grandfathered in all currently convicted wife beaters and child 
abusers. But this notification language goes much further. It would 
also, in effect, leave most future wife beaters and child abusers free 
to have guns.
  There is nothing in the watered-down language that requires anyone to 
tell the accused wife beaters and child abuser that they could lose 
their guns. As a matter of fact, with a wink of the eye, they can say, 
``He isn't a bad guy.'' As a practical matter, most abusers are 
unlikely to get such advance notice. Under this latest proposal, they 
would, thus, remain entirely free to keep their guns.
  Nor is there any reason to limit the ban to those who get advance 
notice, Mr. President. After all, we do not make a requirement for 
anyone else accused of a crime to have previous knowledge of the 
prospective penalty. Felons are prohibited from having guns, regardless 
of whether they have been officially given notice or not. For them, 
ignorance of the law is no excuse. But under this latest proposal, it 
would be an excuse for a wife beater.
  Mr. President, in essence, what has happened here is we proposed that 
no wife beater, no child abuser, whether retrospectively, 
retroactively, or in the future, ought to be able to have a gun, 
because we learned one thing--that the difference between a murdered 
wife and a battered wife is often the presence of a gun. In the couple 
of million cases every year that are reported about domestic abuse, in 
150,000 cases that we are aware of, a gun was present, a gun was held 
to the temple of a battered wife or perhaps a child. And if that isn't 
trauma enough, the prospect of the pulled trigger could finally 
complete the task.
  So, Mr. President, when we proposed this, and it was voted 97 to 2 
favorably on this floor, and a couple of months before, in July, it had 
gone through here 100 to 0. It was unanimous, and it was a voice vote.
  I hope those who would defeat this legislation are willing to face 
the American public and tell the truth of what they are about. They are 
supporting the NRA, and not the families of America.
  I thank the Chair.