Should domestic violence offenders have guns? Supreme Court hears arguments

Gun Rights

A case over whether or not people subjected to restraining orders should lose their right to carry guns was heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, as justices mull a legal challenge that could upend firearms laws nationally.

The high court seemed skeptical as they accepted oral arguments in United States v. Rahimi, a case involving a Texas man convicted for his unlawful possession of guns after he had been ordered to stay away from his girlfriend.

After the restraining order was issued, Zackey Rahimi was arrested as the suspect in unrelated shootings. When police searched his home they found guns. Police charged him with violating federal law and he pleaded guilty to those charges.

But last summer the Supreme Court declared in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen that most extraordinary firearms licensing requirements are at odds with the plain reading of the Second Amendment. That decision effectively overturned gun laws in the dozens of states which had placed barriers between prospective gun owners and their constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms.

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An federal appeals court in New Orleans responded to Bruen by throwing out 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), the 1994 federal law under which Rahimi had been charged and which barred those under protective orders from keeping guns. His conviction was later overturned.

The Biden Administration was quick to appeal, arguing the change to the law posed a grave danger to the safety of domestic violence victims.

“Guns and domestic violence are a deadly combination,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in court Tuesday.

Others disagree. In an amicus brief, the lawyers for the National Rifle Association said that the Bruen decision made clear the Second Amendment does not allow for the creation of subgroups among the U.S. population.

Rahimi, who remains in a Texas jail on other charges, was ordered to stay away from his girlfriend in 2020, months after he allegedly struck her in public, opened fire on a random passerby, and later threatened to shoot her.

Justices seemed skeptical about letting the appeals court’s decision stand, noting the subject of the appeal wasn’t exactly the best example of a model gun owner.

“You don’t have any doubt that your client is a dangerous person, do you?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked Matthew Wright, Rahimi’s lawyer.

Jim Wallace, the executive director of Massachusetts based Gun Owners Action League, told the Herald the case never should have risen to the high court, and could have been prevented by authorities in Texas, who did not arrest Rahimi when he shot at a stranger.

A decision in U.S. v. Rahimi is expected by early summer.

Herald wire services contributed.

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