Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Gun Possession for Those Under Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

by Tommy Grant

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The Supreme Court ruled today that a federal law prohibiting individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms does not violate the Second Amendment. In an 8-1 decision, the justices upheld the constitutionality of the law that had been challenged by a man charged with discharging a firearm and possessing firearms while under a domestic violence restraining order. The man, Zackey Rahimi, hoped the Court’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen ruling in 2022, which places the burden of historical precedent in alignment at the time of the country’s founding to uphold modern-day gun laws, might help him get from under the indictment.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in United States v. Rahimi, emphasized that the Second Amendment does not prohibit all forms of gun regulation.

“When an individual poses a clear threat of physical violence to another, the threatening individual may be disarmed,” Roberts wrote, aligning the current regulation with historical precedents. He noted that if the Second Amendment rights include weapons that did not exist at the time the Constitution was written, then logically it also permits more regulation than when it was written .

The case originated from Rahimi, a Texas resident, who was involved in multiple shootings and subjected to a domestic violence restraining order after assaulting his girlfriend. The protective order specifically barred him from possessing firearms. When police found firearms in his home while investigating subsequent shootings, Rahimi was charged under the federal law that prohibits gun possession for individuals under such restraining orders. According to News Nation, Rahimi had been involved in five shootings over a two-month period overlapping 2020 and 2021.

Rahimi argued that the law infringed upon his Second Amendment rights, a position initially supported by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which found that the government failed to provide a historical analogue to justify the restriction. However, the Supreme Court reversed this decision, with Roberts asserting that “firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms” since the founding of the United States.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the lone dissenter, contended that the federal government had not demonstrated that the ban is consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. He argued that the early laws cited by the majority were too different from the current ban to serve as a historical analogue. Thomas expressed concern that the law strips individuals of their Second Amendment rights without due process and could be applied to those not convicted of a crime.

The ruling comes in the wake of Bruen, which expanded gun rights by affirming the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. That decision has led to numerous legal challenges against existing gun restrictions. The Rahimi decision, however, marks a significant moment where the Court, typically divided on such issues, voted in an overwhelming majority to uphold a restriction aimed at reducing gun violence, particularly in domestic settings.

Domestic violence advocacy groups are welcoming the decision, highlighting the heightened risks victims face when abusers have access to firearms, News Nation reports. Studies show that victims of intimate partner violence are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a gun. Guns were involved in 57% of domestic killings in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sources: SCOTUSblog, News Nation

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