Sniper Held on Violation of Federal Domestic Violence Law

Suspected sniper John Allen Muhammad is currently being held on violation of the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, also known as the Lautenberg Law, which was passed in 1996 due in large part to the efforts of the feminist movement. This law aims to save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of abusers. Muhammad was arraigned on this offense on Thursday while police continue to gather evidence to potentially bring murder charges against him. Muhammad’s violation of the law is enabling police to hold him in custody while they further investigate the sniper shootings. Muhammad’s second wife placed a restraining order against him after he threatened her life, forced his way into her house, and kidnapped her children, according to Salon.com. Muhammad, a former soldier who served in the Gulf War, also went through a bitter custody battle with his first wife and is rumored to have abused his “step-son” John Malvo, 17, who was arrested with him for the recent spate of shootings in the Washington, DC area. “Too many abusers like Muhammad have guns,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “During the first year that this law was in effect, more than 2,000 gun permits were denied because applicants had previous domestic violence convictions. However, we know that 2,000 was just the tip of the iceberg. One half of all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. Allowing convicted abusers to possess guns invites deadly abuse.” Heralded by the domestic violence community and women’s rights advocates as a strong protector of women, the Lautenberg Law has also been praised for refusing to exclude military and police personnel from its jurisdiction, as in the case of similar legislation. The Lautenberg Law has therefore been a powerful tool in preventing law enforcement from continuing to carry government-issued weapons after they have been restrained on domestic violence charges. As in the case of the alleged sniper, men who commit violent acts often have at some point committed violence against an intimate partner, so the Lautenberg Law goes beyond protecting individual women by also protecting the general citizenry from individuals with demonstrated violent histories.


Salon.com 10/25/02; CNN 10/25/02; Los Angeles Times 10/25/02; Feminist Daily News 9/30/97

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