Supreme Court Upholds Law Barring Domestic Abusers From Owning Guns

gun control

The Supreme Court upheld a federal law on Friday, June 21, 2024, that prohibits domestic abusers from owning firearms.

This significant ruling supports gun regulations despite arguments from gun rights groups claiming the prohibition violates the Second Amendment.

In an 8-1 decision, the justices upheld the law, limiting the scope of a landmark ruling from two years ago that had prompted numerous legal challenges to gun regulations across the nation.

This ruling united most of the court’s conservatives and liberals, potentially reinforcing similar federal gun laws that have faced challenges since the Supreme Court’s 2022 expansion of gun rights.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, stated that the court had “no trouble” agreeing that individuals who pose a threat can be denied access to firearms.

“Our tradition of firearm regulation allows the government to disarm individuals who present a credible threat to the physical safety of others,” Roberts wrote.

Roberts clarified that the 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which had caused confusion among lower courts, did not mandate striking down all gun laws lacking a direct historical analogue.

He noted that some lower courts had “misunderstood the methodology of our recent Second Amendment cases.”

Steve Vladeck, a Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, remarked:

“The court’s ruling today leaves intact a specific federal criminal prohibition on gun possession by those subject to domestic violence-related restraining orders.”

Vladeck added that numerous other federal and state gun regulations, challenged post-Bruen, remain unresolved.

Justice Clarence Thomas, author of the majority opinion in Bruen, was the lone dissenter.

“The court and government do not point to a single historical law revoking a citizen’s Second Amendment right based on possible interpersonal violence,” Thomas wrote, expressing concern that this decision jeopardizes the Second Amendment rights of many more individuals.

The case centered on a 1994 law barring individuals with domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns. Texas man Zackey Rahimi, convicted for violating this law after a series of shootings, including one at a Whataburger restaurant, argued that the law contradicted the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling.

His defense claimed that the founding generation did not respond to domestic violence by banning firearm possession, thus the government should not be able to do so now.

However, the Biden administration and domestic violence victim groups pointed to founding-era laws that prohibited dangerous individuals from owning guns, meeting the court’s new history-based test. They highlighted that women subjected to domestic abuse are five times more likely to be killed if there is a gun in the home.

President Joe Biden praised the ruling, stating:

“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.”

Douglas Letter, chief legal officer of the gun control group Brady, hailed the decision as an “important victory for gun violence and domestic violence prevention.”

During oral arguments, the court’s conservative justices indicated a possible narrow grounds ruling, mindful of several related legal challenges awaiting the court, including the question of firearm access for non-violent felons.

Notably, one such prohibition is tied to President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who was recently convicted for gun possession while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance.

Justice Samuel Alito was absent for the second consecutive day as the justices delivered opinions. The court has not commented on his absence.