Guns for domestic abusers? Supreme Court returns to Second Amendment.

Gun Rights

Gun safety and domestic violence prevention advocates were set to rally at the Supreme Court. Gabby Giffords, the former
congresswoman from Arizona who was shot in 2011, was expected to speak,

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WASHINGTON − The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case challenging a law banning domestic abusers from owning guns, pushing the high court into a thorny Second Amendment battle a year after its conservative majority handed down a landmark decision that’s threatened gun laws across the nation.

In one of the most closely watched cases of the year, a Texas man named Zackey Rahimi is asking the Supreme Court to throw out his conviction under a federal law that bars people from possessing guns if they are the subject of a domestic violence restraining order. The court’s decision, expected next year, could have sweeping implications for other gun laws if it clarifies the legal standard by which those prohibitions should be judged.

Underscoring the significance of the case, hundreds of gun safety and domestic violence prevention advocates were set to rally at the Supreme Court during and after the arguments. Among the people expected to speak: Gabby Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who was shot in 2011 and has since become a leading gun control advocate. 

“The Court has a choice to make: give the gun lobby what they want in their all-out assault on public safety, or protect survivors,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action. “The choice should be simple – the Supreme Court must reverse the Rahimi decision.”

Even Second Amendment rights groups acknowledge that Rahimi, who was involved in five shootings between 2020 and 2021, should not have access to guns. In 2019, Rahimi pulled out a gun and fired at a passerby who witnessed him dragging his girlfriend through a parking lot. Months later, after getting into an accident, he repeatedly shot at the other driver. In 2021, he fired several times after a friend’s credit card was declined at a burger joint.

But those groups, including the National Rifle Association, argue that Rahimi should have his guns confiscated only after he has been convicted of the crimes. The federal law that bars people from owning guns because of a restraining order, those groups say, is inconsistent with the way courts have historically viewed punishment.

“Rahimi should not only lose his Second Amendment liberties, but he should also lose all of his liberties − if the allegations against him are ultimately proven true with sufficient due process,” the National Rifle Association told the Supreme Court in a brief last month. “But constitutional safeguards cannot be set aside to obtain those ends.”

The historical view will be central to the discussion Tuesday. That’s because the Supreme Court handed down a major decision just last year in which a majority of the court said that state and federal gun regulations must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” to survive court challenges.

While the law made no reference to guns and domestic violence at the time of the nation’s founding, gun control groups say there is plenty of history around the idea of states banning dangerous people possessing guns. That, they argue, should be enough to uphold Rahimi’s conviction and protect similar gun prohibitions.

Advocates for ending domestic abuse say women are five times more likely to die from domestic violence if the abuser has access to a gun.

The Supreme Court hears arguments in the case, U.S. v. Rahimi, at 10 a.m. EST.

Dig deeper: A blockbuster gun rights case lands at the Supreme Court. Here are three justices to watch.

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