Saturday 22 June 2024 - 11:46

US Supreme Court Upholds Domestic Violence Gun Restriction

Story Code : 1143150
US Supreme Court Upholds Domestic Violence Gun Restriction
The court on an 8-1 vote ruled in favor of the Biden administration, which was defending the law — one of several federal gun restrictions currently facing legal challenges, NBC News reported.

The ruling indicates that some longstanding gun laws are likely to survive despite the court's 2022 decision that expanded gun rights. In that case, the court for the first time ruled that there is a right to bear arms outside the home under the Constitution's Second Amendment.

Writing for the majority in Friday's ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that since the United States was founded "our nation's firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms."

The provision at issue in the case "fits comfortably within this tradition," he added.

In reaching its conclusion, the court did not embrace some of the arguments made by the Biden administration in defense of the law, including that the government can disarm people who are not "responsible."

Attorney General Merrick Garland welcomed the ruling, saying the law "protects victims by keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals who pose a threat to their intimate partners and children."

The decision came just a week after gun rights advocates won a big victory when the court ruled that a federal ban on "bump stock" accessories for semi-automatic rifles, which make them fire more rapidly, was unlawful.

The case before the justices concerned Zackey Rahimi, a Texas man whose partner obtained a restraining order against him in February 2020. He argued that he cannot be prosecuted under the federal gun possession restriction in light of what the Supreme Court concluded. Rahimi’s lawyer, Matthew Wright, declined to comment.

Erich Pratt, senior vice president at Gun Owners of America, a gun rights group, said that while Rahimi is a "dangerous individual," the ruling "will disarm others who have never actually committed any domestic violence."

Although the vote in Friday's ruling was lopsided, with only conservative Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, the ruling nevertheless exposed divisions among the justices on the gun rights issue, with five justices writing separate concurring opinions explaining their views.

Those extensive opinions will help shape how the court will approach future gun cases, several of which of currently pending.

The 2022 decision, in a case called New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, said gun restrictions had to be analyzed based on a historical understanding of the right to bear arms. As such, the decision raised questions about many existing gun restrictions that gun rights activists say are not anchored in historical tradition.

One of those other laws, which bars users of illegal drugs from possessing firearms, has drawn scrutiny in part because Hunter Biden, US President Joe Biden’s son, has been charged with violating it and has mounted a constitutional challenge.

The three liberal justices on the conservative-majority court were all in the majority while making it clear they disagree with the 2022 ruling.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was appointed by President Joe Biden after that decision was issued, said the new case "highlights the apparent difficulty faced by judges on the ground" in deciding which gun laws should be upheld in light of the earlier ruling.

In his dissent, Thomas stuck to his view that the history of similar laws at the time of the nation's founding is determinative. Other justices are more willing to consider laws that are not exactly the same but have a similar effect.

"Not a single historical regulation justifies the statute at issue," Thomas wrote.

In Rahimi's case, his ex-partner, with whom he shares a child, obtained a restraining order after an incident in an Arlington, Texas, parking lot in 2019. Rahimi allegedly knocked the woman to the ground, dragged her to his car and pushed her inside, causing her to knock her head on the dashboard, prosecutors said in court papers. He also allegedly fired a shot from his gun in the direction of a witness.

Even while the protective order was in place, Rahimi was implicated in a series of shootings, including one in which he allegedly fired bullets into a house using an AR-15 rifle, prosecutors allege.

Rahimi faces state charges in the domestic assault and a separate assault against a different woman. But the case before the justices concerns his separate prosecution by the Justice Department for violating the federal gun possession law.

Rahimi ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison.

The New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals applied the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in Rahimi’s case and concluded last year that the law “fails to pass constitutional muster.”