Supreme Court upholds law banning domestic abusers from owning guns

Washington- The Supreme Court posted online on Friday a federal law that prohibits people who are subject to firearms restraining orders for domestic violence, ruling that the measure does not violate the Second Amendment.

The court ruled 8-1 that a person who a court determines poses a credible threat to the physical safety of others may be temporarily disarmed, consistent with the Second Amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas was the only dissenter, although five of the justices issued concurring opinions.

The high court’s decision overturned a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which struck down a ban on gun ownership for alleged domestic violence perpetrators.

“When a restraining order contains a finding that an individual poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner, he or she may – consistent with the Second Amendment – ​​be prohibited from possessing firearms while the The order has been in effect since inception “Our nation’s gun laws include provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms,” ​​Roberts wrote. to the facts of this case, [the law] fits comfortably into this tradition.

The ruling was praised by President Biden and gun violence prevention groups, who said the court’s majority recognized that common-sense gun laws are permissible under the Second Amendment.

“No person who has been abused should have to worry about their abuser being given a gun,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “Thanks to today’s decision, survivors of domestic violence and their families will still be able to count on essential protections, just as they have for the past three decades. »

Esther Sanchez-Gomez, litigation director at the Giffords Law Center, said that even though judges prioritize the safety of domestic violence survivors, the ruling maintains the status quo.

“Today’s decision will save lives, but too many women are dying from domestic violence and guns. We still have a lot of work to do,” she said in a statement.

United States v. Rahimi

Activists gather outside the United States Supreme Court before the start of oral arguments in US v. Rahimi, Tuesday Nov. 7, 2023.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images


The case, known as US v. Rahimi, was the first involving the Second Amendment heard by the court after his historic decision of June 2022 which expanded gun rights and established a new legal framework for determining when gun restrictions are constitutional. The test requires the government to demonstrate that a challenged gun law fits with the nation’s history and tradition of gun regulation. It can meet this standard by proposing laws analogous to the modern measure under review.

As a result of that ruling nearly two years ago, a number of long-standing gun laws have been challenged in federal courts and, in some cases, struck down. But confusion and divisions among lower courts over how to apply the Supreme Court’s so-called test based on history and tradition have led the justices to seek clarification.

The legal battle involving the protections for victims of domestic violence gave the high court the first opportunity to remedy those consequences, and Roberts wrote that some lower courts “misunderstood” the methodology of his recent Second Amendment cases, which he said were “not intended to suggest a law locked in amber.”

“The law must be consistent with the principles underlying the Second Amendment,” the chief justice wrote of the historical analogies required by the Supreme Court framework, “but it need not be one.” dead double” or a “historical twin”.

The court majority held that the nation’s gun laws have long disarmed people who threaten physical harm to others. He said that, when applied to the facts of the case, the ban on alleged perpetrators of domestic violence is consistent with that tradition.

The case involves a law passed by Congress 30 years ago that prohibits people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms. A Texas man, Zackey Rahimi, was the subject of such an order granted to a former girlfriend when he threatened another woman with a gun and fired shots in public five times in December 2020 and January 2021.

After these incidents, police, executing a search warrant, found two firearms at Rahimi’s home. He was charged under the 1994 law and pleaded guilty, but challenged the constitutionality of the gun ban, saying it fell outside constitutional bounds.

The 5th Circuit threw out Rahimi’s conviction and struck down the gun law after applying the Supreme Court’s standard of history and tradition. The appeals court said the historical analogs put forward by prosecutors “are not up to par” and that the ban on people subject to domestic violence restraining orders “does not fall within the scope of the law.” category of gun regulations under the Second Amendment.”

The justices heard arguments in the case in November. Conservative members of the court suggested that people considered a danger to society could be disarmed and largely agreed that Rahimi, in particular, should not have access to weapons.

Referring to laws dating to the mid-to-late 1700s, the Supreme Court majority held that “when an individual poses a clear threat of physical violence to another, the threatening individual may be disarmed.”

But Thomas, in dissent, refuted the majority’s conclusion and said “not a single historic regulation justifies” the ban on people subject to domestic violence restraining orders, which he said violates the Second Amendment.

“The court and government do not point to a single landmark law revoking a citizen’s Second Amendment right on the basis of possible interpersonal violence,” wrote Thomas, author of the majority opinion in the 2022 case . “The government has not borne the burden of proving that [the prohibition] is consistent with the text and historical understanding of the Second Amendment.

He warned that the decision in Rahimi’s case threatens the Second Amendment rights of broader subsets of society.

The ruling’s impacts are likely to factor into challenges related to other gun laws that are being considered in lower courts or awaiting a ruling from judges. The decision provides guidance on what Founding-era gun regulations may be proposed by the government to justify a modern restriction.

“As we said in the Bruen case, a ‘historical twin’ is not required,” Roberts wrote for the court, referencing his June 2022 ruling in the New York State Rifle and Pistol case Association v. Bruen.

One of these pending cases concerns the constitutionality of a law disarming people convicted of nonviolent crimes, and the second concerns a law prohibiting a person who uses illegal drugs from owning weapons. Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, was found guilty by Delaware jury of violating that law and two others related to his purchase and possession of a gun in October 2018, while he was addicted to crack cocaine. The president’s son may appeal his conviction, challenging the constitutionality of the federal ban on drug users.

The National Rifle Association said the court’s opinion is narrow and does not endorse laws that are being challenged in federal courts across the country.

“This ruling only states that an individual who poses a clear threat of violence may be temporarily disarmed following a judicial finding of dangerousness,” Randy Kozuch, executive director of the NRA’s Legislative Action Institute, said in a statement. .

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