Supreme Court Upholds Federal Gun Ban for Domestic Abusers

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law on Friday that criminalizes the possession of firearms by individuals under domestic violence restraining orders, marking a significant victory for President Joe Biden’s administration. This decision comes after the court’s major expansion of firearms rights in 2022.

The 8-1 ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, reversed a lower court’s decision that had struck down the 1994 law as a violation of the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.” The law was contested by a Texas man who was under a restraining order for assaulting his girlfriend and threatening to shoot her. as reported by Reuters.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously determined that the law failed to meet the Supreme Court’s stringent 2022 standard requiring gun regulations to align with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. However, Roberts argued that historically, firearm laws have targeted individuals who pose physical threats 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.

President Biden praised the decision, emphasizing its importance for public safety and the protection of abuse victims. “No one who has been abused should have to worry about their abuser getting a gun,” Biden said. “As a result of today’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,” told NBC News.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who authored the 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, was the lone dissenter. Thomas argued that no historical regulation supports the statute in question, warning that the decision jeopardizes the Second Amendment rights of many.

The case involved Zackey Rahimi, who pleaded guilty in 2021 to illegally possessing guns while under a restraining order. Police discovered firearms at Rahimi’s residence during an investigation into multiple shootings. A federal judge initially rejected Rahimi’s Second Amendment challenge and sentenced him to over six years in prison.

Gun control advocates welcomed the ruling. John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, criticized “extreme Trump-appointed judges” on the 5th Circuit for siding with an abuser seeking to retain his guns.

In a nation deeply divided over firearms regulation, the Supreme Court has often expanded gun rights, most notably in landmark decisions in 2008 and 2010, and in the 2022 Bruen ruling. In Friday’s decision, Roberts clarified that the history and tradition test for gun regulations is not as rigid as suggested by the 5th Circuit’s ruling and Thomas’s dissent. He noted that modern gun restrictions do not require a “historical twin” to be lawful. report from AP News.

Concurring opinions from five justices indicated ongoing debates about the Bruen test’s applicability. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted that lower courts are struggling with the test, suggesting that the Supreme Court might share the blame.

In another recent firearms-related decision, the Supreme Court on June 14 declared unlawful a federal ban on “bump stock” devices that enable semiautomatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns. This case, however, did not involve the Second Amendment.

A May Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed that 75% of registered voters, including 84% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans, believe that individuals under domestic violence restraining orders should not possess firearms.