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Supreme Court upholds domestic violence gun ban

(NewsNation) —The Supreme Court has ruled that people under domestic violence restraining orders can be prohibited from possessing guns, marking a victory for gun control and victim advocacy groups. Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

The case, United States v. Rahimi, centered around whether a federal law prohibiting the possession of firearms by persons subject to domestic-violence restraining orders violates the Second Amendment.

The ruling

“Together, the surety and going armed laws confirm what common sense suggests: When an individual poses a clear threat of physical violence to another, the threatening individual may be disarmed,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

“The presumption against restrictions on keeping and bearing firearms is a central feature of the Second Amendment,” Thomas wrote in his dissent. “That Amendment does not merely narrow the Government’s regulatory power.  It is a barrier, placing the right to keep and bear arms off limits to the Government.”

Gun control challenges

The case followed a series of legal challenges that were brought forth after the Supreme Court expanded gun rights in 2022 in a ruling – now known as the Bruen decision – finding that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. 

That decision in the case upended gun laws across the country and led to a spate of rulings invalidating some long-standing restrictions on firearms. 

The Rahimi decision comes days after the court invalidated the Trump-era prohibition on bump stocks ending the nationwide ban on the devices, which convert semi-automatic weapons to ones capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute.

United States v. Rahimi

The case in the court’s current ruling was brought forth by Texas resident Zackey Rahimi, who was involved in five shootings over two months between 2020 and 2021. 

Rahimi hit his girlfriend during an argument in a parking lot and then fired a gun at a witness in December 2019, according to court papers. He then called the girlfriend and threatened to shoot her if she told anyone about the assault, which led her to obtain a protective order against him in February 2020. 

When police identified and approached Rahimi as a suspect in the later shootings, he admitted to authorities that he had guns in the house and that he was subject to a domestic violence restraining order that prohibited gun possession. 

But Rahimi moved to dismiss his indictment arguing that the federal law barring him from having guns was a violation of his constitutional right. 

The appeals court initially upheld the conviction, but then reconsidered once the Supreme Court ruled in Bruen. 

The matter made its way to the national highest court ostensibly dividing the court on how it should sway. 

Two of the court’s conservative justices – Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett – appeared to be in a  “raging” philosophical debate over the ruling, reported Politico. 

“It does seem to me that there’s a fight going on, and Rahimi played an important role in provoking it,” Reva Siegel, a professor at Yale Law School, told the outlet. 

What impact will the ruling have?

The ruling was being closely watched by domestic victim advocacy groups who feared that expanding gun rights to those with a history of violence would put victims in more danger. 

A victim or survivor of intimate partner violence is five times more likely to die when an abusive partner has access to a gun, studies have shown. And guns were used in 57% of killings of spouses, intimate partners, and relatives in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The figures were cited during oral arguments in front of the justices in November. 

Barrett acknowledged that there is “little dispute” that domestic violence is dangerous. But in more marginal cases, she asked, how the government can show that other kinds of behavior are dangerous, reported SCOTUS blog

At the time, the arguments appeared to hedge on strict interpretation or originalist approach versus a modern stance to apply to the present day during oral arguments. 

Read the full ruling here:

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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