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U.S. Supreme Court upholds law that prevents domestic abusers from owning guns

Memebers of the Supreme Court of the United States 2022 - WIkimedia - Public Domain
Ariana Figueroa

(Colorado Newsline) The U.S. Supreme Court Friday upheld a federal law that bars people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from owning a firearm.

In an 8-1 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion that “our Nation’s firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms.”

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

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Associate Justice Clarence Thomas - Wikimedia - Public Domain

Justice Clarence Thomas, a staunch advocate of the Second Amendment, was the lone dissent.

Thomas argued that the question before the court was not if someone can have their firearms taken away under the Second Amendment, but instead 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.”

This was the first major test of the 2022 Supreme Court decision —New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen — that struck down a New York law limiting carrying firearms in the open in a decision from the high court that greatly expanded gun rights. Thomas wrote that decision.

Because of the Bruen decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit vacated Zackey Rahimi’s conviction on the grounds that the federal law violated his Second Amendment rights.

In 2019, Rahimi assaulted his girlfriend in Arlington, Texas, and threatened to shoot her if she told anyone, according to the Department of Justice. That led to a restraining order that suspended his handgun license and prohibited him from possessing firearms.

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© iStock - SeanPavonePhoto

But Rahimi did not adhere to that order and then threatened another woman with a gun, and two months later opened fire in public five times.

During oral arguments in November before the court, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, representing the Biden administration, argued that the 5th Circuit misinterpreted the Bruen decision.

She said there is historical precedent in the ability of Congress to “disarm those who are not law-abiding, responsible citizens.”

Under a 1994 federal law, anyone who has been convicted in any court of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” and, or, is subject to domestic violence protective orders, is prohibited from purchasing and having possession of firearms and ammunition.

During those oral arguments, the justices — both liberal and conservative — seemed to side with Prelogar’s argument that the federal law is in line with the longstanding practice of disarming dangerous people and does not violate an individual’s Second Amendment rights.

More than half of female homicide victims are killed by current or former male intimate partners. Firearms are used in more than 50 percent of those homicides.

More than two dozen states, including Colorado, have laws that prevent someone subject to an order in a domestic violence case from buying or possessing a gun and ammunition.

Besides Colorado, some of those states include Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and X.