Supreme Court Upholds Law Disarming Domestic Abusers

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the government may disarm a Texas man subject to a domestic violence order, limiting the sweep of its earlier blockbuster decision that vastly expanded gun rights.

That decision, issued in 2022, struck down a New York law that put strict limits on carrying guns outside the home. It also established a new legal standard for assessing laws limiting the possession of firearms, one whose reliance on historical practices has sown confusion as courts have struggled to apply it, with some judges sweeping aside gun control laws that have been on the books for decades.

The new case, United States v. Rahimi, explored the scope of that new test. Only Justice Clarence Thomas, the author of the majority opinion in the 2022 decision, dissented.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that Second Amendment rights have limits.

“When a restraining order contains a finding that an individual poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner, that individual may — consistent with the Second Amendment — be banned from possessing firearms while the order is in effect,” the chief justice wrote. “Since the founding, our nation’s firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms.”

The case started in 2019 when Zackey Rahimi, a drug dealer in Texas, assaulted his girlfriend and threatened to shoot her if she told anyone, leading her to obtain a restraining order. The order suspended Mr. Rahimi’s handgun license and prohibited him from possessing firearms.

Mr. Rahimi defied the order in flagrant fashion, according to court records.

He threatened a different woman with a gun, leading to charges of assault with a deadly weapon. Then, in the space of two months, he opened fire in public five times.

Upset about a social media post from someone to whom he had sold drugs, for instance, he shot an AR-15 rifle into his former client’s home. When a fast-food restaurant declined a friend’s credit card, he fired several bullets into the air.

The shootings led to a search warrant of Mr. Rahimi’s home, which uncovered weapons, and he was charged with violating a federal law that makes it a crime for people subject to domestic violence orders to possess guns.

After a judge rejected his Second Amendment challenge to the law, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to more than six years in prison. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit at first affirmed his conviction in a short decision, rejecting the argument that the law violated the Second Amendment in a footnote.

But the appeals court reversed course in 2023, a year after the Supreme Court decided New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which said courts must judge restrictions on gun rights by turning to early American history as a guide.

Using that standard, the appeals court rejected a variety of old laws identified by the government as possible analogues, saying they did not sufficiently resemble the one concerning domestic violence orders.

Many of them, Judge Cory T. Wilson wrote for the panel, “disarmed classes of people considered to be dangerous, specifically including those unwilling to take an oath of allegiance, slaves and Native Americans.” That was different, he wrote, from domestic violence orders, which make case-by-case judgments about a particular individual’s dangerousness.

Judge Wilson, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, wrote that the government’s insistence that it could disarm people who were not law-abiding “admits to no true limiting principle.”

“Could speeders be stripped of their right to keep and bear arms?” he asked. “Political nonconformists? People who do not recycle or drive an electric vehicle?”

Judge Wilson acknowledged that the federal law at issue in the case “embodies salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society.” But he said the approach required by the Bruen decision did not allow courts to weigh the benefits of the law against its burdens. What was significant, he wrote, quoting that decision, was that “our ancestors would never have accepted” the law on domestic violence orders.

The Fifth Circuit is dominated by Republican appointees and has issued a series of aggressively conservative rulings that have met a frosty reception at the Supreme Court, itself quite conservative, on issues like immigration,abortion pills, contacts with social media companies and so-called ghost guns. Some of those Supreme Court rulings were tentative, but the overall picture is one of an appeals court out of step with the justices.

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top