Abuse law affects
few isle troops

Officials cite rare cases where
soldiers may not carry weapons
because of domestic violence

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A six-year-old federal law that prevents military personnel with domestic abuse convictions from carrying weapons seems to have had almost no effect on the ability of more than 35,000 military personnel here to wage the current war against terrorism.

The law, known as the Lautenberg amendment, prevents the military from issuing weapons to people who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. It also means military personnel cannot be deployed if they cannot carry a weapon and have to be reassigned to "non-tactical units."

For soldiers and Marines, the implications are even greater since they are required to undergo periodic weapons qualifications.

The Army says that soldiers who don't qualify at military ranges cannot be promoted and will be barred from re-enlistment until their records are cleared.

The law gained prominence recently because of an unprecedented number of domestic violence-related killings at Fort Bragg, N.C., last summer.

At Schofield Barracks only 23 of the 11,500 soldiers assigned to the 25th Infantry Division have been convicted of domestic abuse and reassigned since 1999, according to Army spokesman Bob Warner.

This year so far there have been four cases, Warner said.

"Personnel who can be rehabilitated and allowed to stay in the Army will be assigned only to jobs that do not require the handling of weapons," Warner added.

In the 5,500-member Hawaii Army and Air National Guard, two Army Guard members had to be reassigned to other jobs because of the law, said Maj. Chuck Anthony.

These soldiers are in jobs where they didn't have to qualify annually on any type of weapon, Anthony said, and were given time to clear up their records.

Maj. Chris Hughes, Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii spokesman, said none of the nearly 6,000 Marines here have been barred from carrying weapons because none has spouse abuse convictions. Nor has any Marine been discharged or granted extensions because they were convicted of abusing their spouse.

Also not affected are any of the 3,000 soldiers who belong to the Army Reserve in Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa, and the nearly 5,000 Air Force personnel at Hickam Air Force Base. Only the Navy was unable to report how many sailors here have been convicted of domestic abuse because this type of information is not reported to the Pacific Fleet headquarters, but maintained at each individual unit level.

The new law didn't come into play even in the Navy's most recent publicized case of domestic abuse, where Navy Petty Officer David DeArmond was charged with killing his wife and mother-in-law in June.

Although DeArmond, 33, was convicted of choking his first wife in San Diego seven years ago, the Navy said he was never required to carry or qualify with a weapon.

Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell, Navy spokeswoman, said DeArmond, as a Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard hull technician, "was a welder by trade and his assignments did not involve him being armed with a weapon." DeArmond's current enlistment was supposed to expire on Dec. 7, but Campbell said that has been placed on hold pending the outcome of the double homicide charges.

Campbell said "there is a screening process for any sailor being assigned to a watch assignment or billet which requires a weapon qualification. That is the point at which the Lautenberg amendment would come into view. Personnel are screened prior to weapons training, and would not be allowed into a weapons qualification course if they did not meet the established criteria."

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --