Gun Law Repeal Sought by New Legislation

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - Legislation was introduced in Congress late Thursday afternoon to repeal a 1996 gun control law in an effort, in part, to restore the ability of domestic violence victims to protect themselves.

"Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 25 million times every year," according to the legislation. "Of these self-defense cases, as many as 200,000 are by women defending themselves against sexual assault."

Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-ID) is sponsoring the bill to repeal what is commonly called the "Lautenberg Law," a provision inserted into a 1996 spending bill during last minute negotiations by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and therefore never fully debated publicly in Congress.

The Lautenberg Law prohibits anyone who has ever been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning a firearm, including those convicted long ago. The goal of Chenoweth-Hage's legislation is to eliminate new penalties for people convicted of old crimes.

According to Chenoweth-Hage, someone who pleaded guilty to domestic violence years ago has, under the Lautenberg Law, lost their right to own a firearm. "Ironically, the law has even taken firearms away from spouses who may have been the victims of abuse," Chenoweth-Hage said.

Chenoweth-Hage contends that the Lautenberg Law imposes new penalties for old crimes. It is "neither fair nor constitutional," Chenoweth-Hage said. Such a law "constitutes an unfunded federal mandate that imposes a huge cost on the states."

"The Lautenberg Law usurps the rights of states to assign penalties that match the crime," Chenoweth-Hage said. "It also imposes a new legal penalty on people who have already paid the legal penalties for old crimes."

The legislation comes at the same time the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta released a report indicating that the rate at which Americans are killed by guns has dropped 21 percent since 1993.