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 November 8, 2023

Supreme Court may uphold domestic abuser gun prohibition on narrow grounds

On Tuesday, a majority of Supreme Court justices appeared inclined to uphold a federal prohibition on firearms for individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders that has been in effect for thirty years.

Throughout the oral arguments in U.S. v. Rahimi, a number of conservative justices appeared to favor a limited decision that would reaffirm an expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment as a whole, as ABC News reported.

The presence of a firearm in a domestic abuse incident increases the risk of death for the victim by a factor of five, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

The legislation at issue mandates that restraining orders be submitted by state and federal courts to the national criminal background check system.

This system subsequently halts an attempted purchase of a firearm. FBI statistics indicate that since 1998, over 77,000 gun sales have been prohibited by law.

Drug dealer Zackey Rahimi of Texas, who was indicted for gun possession in violation of a restraining order obtained by his fiancée, is contesting the ban on the grounds that it is devoid of precedent in the past. A court of federal appeals concurred with him and ruled that the law ought to be invalidated.

A year ago, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court ruled that deprivation of a firearm by the government is permissible only under laws rooted in American history and tradition. The first significant examination of the recently promulgated standard is the Rahimi case.

"The government is looking down a dark well of American history and only seeing a reflection of itself," Rahimi attorney Matthew Wright told the justices.

In the midst of a gathering of hundreds of gun safety advocates and survivors of domestic violence outside the Court, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar vehemently defended the legislation, asserting that it adheres to the country's extensive tradition of preventing non-compliant and accountable individuals from obtaining firearms.

"It's an easy case," Prelogar said. "The constitutional principle is clear. You can disarm dangerous persons."

She stated that the legislation prevents "profound harm" to law enforcement officers, women, and the general public, and that 48 state legislatures and Congress have adopted this view.

"I was struck by the data showing that armed domestic violence calls are the most dangerous type of call for a police officer to respond to in this country," Prelogar told the justices. "And for those officers who die in the line of duty, virtually all of them are murdered with handguns."

It appeared that Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh supported the law. Even if there is no "historical twin" for a law prohibiting firearms for individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders, both sources indicated that "dangerousness" has historically been a justification for gun control.

Liberal justices on the court, who have been extremely critical of the "history and tradition" standard for gun restrictions, criticized the very fact that the prohibition on firearms for domestic abusers is on the table for consideration.

"I'm a little troubled. We have a history and tradition test that requires a culling of the history where only some people's history counts," said Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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