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June 3, 2013

Today, NNEDV mourns the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg, a statesman and champion for victims of domestic violence.  Among many accomplishments, Senator Lautenberg authored legislation that keeps guns out of the hands of convicted batterers.

The Domestic Violence Gun Ban, which passed in 1996, amended the Gun Control Act of 1968 to prohibit gun ownership for individuals who were convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.  Prior to the Lautenberg Amendment, only those convicted of felonies could be prohibited from gun ownership and possession.  That loophole left a tragic opportunity for domestic violence offenders to access weapons and use them against their intimate partners.

The amendment received overwhelming bipartisan support after Senator Lautenberg's passionate arguments documenting the alarming increase risk of homicide in domestic violence cases when guns were involved. Senator Lautenberg's remarks when President Clinton signed the bill in 1996:

Mr. President, over the years there will be thousands of women like this, each one with a family of loved ones, each one with their own dreams.  And there will be children.  And they will all live, Mr. President.  They will all live because of what we do here this day.

Mr. President, you and I will never know the women and children whose lives we are about to save.  They will never have a chance to thank us.  They will never know that their lives were spared.

But for the rest of our lives, you and I and other Senators, we will have the privilege of knowing that we have lived up to the very highest of our own ideals.  We have done nothing less than reach forward into time, put our hands around tragedy and death and remolded it back into life itself.

His work to close this loophole has undoubtedly saved the lives of many domestic violence survivors.  Department of Justice statistics show that hundreds of thousands of gun applications have been denied to convicted domestic violence offenders since the passage of this bill.

"We are in Washington, D.C. this week advocating for an amendment that would strengthen Senator Lautenberg's legislation by expanding background checks and improving the collection of information that would stop batterers from accessing firearms," said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of NNEDV. "As we mourn the Senator's passing, we honor his work and promote his legacy."

"Senator Lautenberg was a staunch supporter of initiatives addressing domestic violence throughout his career," said Sandy Clark, Associate Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women.  "Senator Lautenberg consistently voted to support victims of domestic violence and their children, and provided leadership on the issue.  He will be greatly missed."

To learn more about the Domestic Violence Gun Ban, read a report compiled by Sen. Lautenberg's office entitled, "The Domestic Violence Gun Ban Ten Years Later: Lives Saved, Abusers Denied."