Apex Court Upholds Ban On Domestic Abusers Owning Guns

(MENAFN- Gulf Times) The US Supreme Court upheld yesterday a federal law that makes it a crime for people under domestic violence restraining orders to have guns, handing a victory to President Joe Biden's administration as the justices opted not to further widen firearms rights after a major expansion in 2022.
The 8-1 ruling, authored by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, overturned a lower court's decision striking down the 1994 law as a violation of the US Constitution's Second Amendment right to“keep and bear arms”.
The law was challenged by a Texas man who was subject to a restraining order for assaulting his girlfriend in a parking lot and later threatening to shoot her.
The New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals had concluded that the measure failed the Supreme Court's stringent test set in 2022 that required gun laws to be“consistent with the nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation” to comply with the Second Amendment.
Roberts wrote in the ruling that since the nation's founding, firearm laws have targeted people who threaten physical harm to others.
“When a restraining order contains a finding that an individual poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner, that individual may – consistent with the Second Amendment – be banned from possessing firearms while the order is in effect,” Roberts wrote.
Biden's administration defended the law as critical to protect public safety and abuse victims, who often are women.
It emphasised that guns pose a particularly serious threat in domestic violence situations and also are extremely dangerous to police officers called to respond.
“No one who has been abused should have to worry about their abuser getting a gun,” Biden said, touting his record on gun control.“As a result of (Friday's) ruling, survivors of domestic violence and their families will still be able to count on critical protections, just as they have for the past three decades.”
“A woman who lives in a house with a domestic abuser is five times more likely to be murdered if he has access to a gun,” Solicitor-General Elizabeth Prelogar said in November last year as she made the case for upholding the federal law for the Biden administration.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who authored the 2022 ruling in a case called New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, was the lone dissenter.
“Most states, including Texas, classify aggravated assault as a felony, punishable by up to 20 years' imprisonment. Thus, the question before us is not whether Rahimi and others like him can be disarmed consistent with the second amendment,” Thomas wrote.“Instead, the question is whether the government can strip the second amendment right of anyone subject to a protective order – even if he has never been accused or convicted of a crime. It cannot.”
“Not a single historical regulation justifies the statute at issue,” Thomas wrote, adding that“in the interest of ensuring the government can regulate one subset of society, (yesterday's) decision puts at risk the Second Amendment rights of many more”.
The case involved Zackey Rahimi, who pleaded guilty in 2021 to illegally possessing guns in violation of this law while subject to a restraining order.
Police found a pistol and rifle while searching Rahimi's residence in connection with at least five shootings, including using an assault-type rifle to fire at the home of a man to whom he had sold drugs.
A federal judge had rejected Rahimi's Second Amendment challenge and sentenced him to more than six years in prison.
Violating the domestic violence gun law initially was punishable by up to 10 years in prison but has since been raised to 15 years.
Gun safety groups called yesterday's ruling a legal victory that will help counter firearms violence.
However, they condemned actions by the 5th Circuit, perhaps the most conservative federal appeals court, that let the case get this far.
“As millions of domestic violence victims breathe a sigh of relief, it's worth remembering who put them in jeopardy: extreme Trump-appointed judges on the 5th Circuit who sided with an abuser who wanted to keep his guns,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, referring to Republican former president Donald Trump.
Rahimi's lawyer declined to comment on the ruling.
In a May Reuters/Ipsos poll, 75% of registered voters, including 84% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans, said that a person subject to a domestic violence restraining order should not be allowed to possess firearms.
In a nation bitterly divided over how to address firearms violence including frequent mass shootings, the Supreme Court often has taken an expansive view of the Second Amendment, broadening gun rights in landmark rulings in 2008, 2010 and 2022.
The 2022 Bruen ruling recognised a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defence, striking down a New York state's limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home.
In another case, the Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling on June 14 declared unlawful a federal ban on“bump stock” devices that enable semiautomatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns.
The 5th Circuit last year set aside Rahimi's conviction, concluding that although he was“hardly a model citizen”, the 1994 law was an“outlier” that could not stand under the“historical tradition” standard the justices announced in Bruen.
Supporters of Rahimi have argued that judges too easily issue restraining orders in an unfair process that results in the deprivation of the constitutional gun rights of accused abusers.
Gun violence is common in the United States, where there are more firearms than people, and the Gun Violence Archive registered more than 40,000 deaths last year. Attempts to clamp down on gun rights are always met with stiff political resistance.


Gulf Times

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