Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Domestic Abusers Owning Guns

Washington TD - June 24, 2024 6:13 am

Supreme Court Police officers stand on duty outside the Supreme Court building Thursday June 13, 2024, in Washington.(AP photo-Mark Schiefebein)

The Supreme Court tackled one of its remaining major decisions Friday, weighing in on a case involving gun rights and domestic violence. In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that takes guns away from domestic abusers with restraining orders.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “an individual found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment.”

The conservative court has expanded gun rights in the past, so this ruling was a win for gun control advocates. Supreme court watchdogs weren’t exactly surprised, however, as the plaintiff, Zackey Rahimi, was accused of five shootings in Texas in 2020 after his girlfriend was granted a protective order from him because Rahimi allegedly assaulted her. Rahimi argued his 2nd amendment rights were being taken away.

“Mr. Rahimi is not an ideal individual to be challenging these gun regulations. He’s accused of committing very serious crimes, the domestic violence allegations against him are very disturbing. What is different and unique about this case, the court is grappling with some very important, very grave 2nd amendment issues in the context of a less than ideal plaintiff,” said Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Zack Smith.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissent, writing “Not a single historical regulation justifies the statute at issue,” Thomas wrote the Supreme Court opinion from 2022 that expanded gun rights around the country.

The Supreme Court is seen on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The Supreme Court is seen on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

At arguments in November, some justices voiced concern that a ruling for Rahimi could also jeopardize the background check system that the Biden administration said has stopped more than 75,000 gun sales in the past 25 years based on domestic violence protective orders.

The case also had been closely watched for its potential to affect cases in which other gun ownership laws have been called into question, including in the high-profile prosecution of Hunter Biden. President Joe Biden’s son was convicted of lying on a form to buy a firearm while he was addicted to drugs. His lawyers have signaled they will appeal.

A decision to strike down the domestic violence gun law might have signaled the court’s skepticism of the other laws as well. The justices could weigh in soon in one or more of those other cases.

Many of the gun law cases grow out of the Bruen decision. That high court ruling not only expanded Americans’ gun rights under the Constitution but also changed the way courts are supposed to evaluate restrictions on firearms.

Rahimi’s case reached the Supreme Court after prosecutors appealed a ruling that threw out his conviction for possessing guns while subject to a restraining order.

Rahimi was involved in five shootings over two months in and around Arlington, Texas, U.S. Circuit Judge Cory Wilson noted. When police identified Rahimi as a suspect in the shootings and showed up at his home with a search warrant, he admitted having guns in the house and being subject to a domestic violence restraining order that prohibited gun possession, Wilson wrote.

But even though Rahimi was hardly “a model citizen,” Wilson wrote, the law at issue could not be justified by looking to history. That’s the test Justice Clarence Thomas laid out in his opinion for the court in Bruen.

The appeals court initially upheld the conviction under a balancing test that included whether the restriction enhances public safety. But the panel reversed course after Bruen. At least one district court has upheld the law since the Bruen decision.

Advocates for domestic violence victims and gun control groups had called on the court to uphold the law.

Firearms are the most common weapon used in homicides of spouses, intimate partners, children or relatives in recent years, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guns were used in more than half, 57%, of those killings in 2020, a year that saw an overall increase in domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Seventy women a month, on average, are shot and killed by intimate partners, according to the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Gun rights groups backed Rahimi, arguing that the appeals court got it right when it looked at American history and found no restriction close enough to justify the gun ban.

The Supreme Court is set to release more opinions Wednesday, with major cases involving Donald Trump and presidential immunity, abortion, and January 6 sentencing still pending.

Editor’s Note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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