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Supreme Court Rules the Subjects of Domestic Violence Restraining Order Cannot Have Guns

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the government should not violate the Second Amendment rights

Supreme Court Rules the Subjects of Domestic Violence Restraining Order Cannot Have Guns

The United States Supreme Court upheld a law barring people with a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a gun.

The decision was one of several highly anticipated rulings released before the court breaks for its summer recess. 

In an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled the 1994 law was valid and that the U.S. Constitution allows individuals to lose their firearms if they were found to be dangerous.

“When an individual has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another, that individual may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in an opinion on behalf of the majority. “Since the Founding, the Nation’s firearm laws have included regulations to stop individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms.”

The plaintiff at the center of the challenge was Zackey Rahimi of Texas. Rahimi was accused of hitting his girlfriend during an argument and then later threatening to shoot her if she told anyone. The girlfriend obtained a restraining order which banned Rahimi from possessing any firearms.  When he became the suspect in an unrelated shooting, two guns were found during a search of his home. Rahimi was then arrested.

While the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had initially ruled against Rahimi’s appeal, the court withdrew its decision after the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The decision held that New York’s gun restriction violated the Fourteenth Amendment by not allowing citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights. 

“Under our precedent, the appropriate analysis involves considering whether the challenged regulation is consistent with the principles that underpin the Nation’s regulatory tradition,” wrote Roberts. “Rahimi has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of others … and the Government offers ample evidence that the Second Amendment permits such individuals to be disarmed.”

Justice Clarence Thomas offered the lone dissenting opinion, arguing that the Court “should continue to rebuff the Government’s attempts to rewrite the Second Amendment and the Court’s precedents interpreting it.”

“The question before us is not whether Rahimi and others like him can be disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment,” wrote Thomas. “Instead, the question is whether the Government can strip the Second Amendment right of anyone subject to a protective order—even if he has never been accused or convicted of a crime.”

“It cannot,” he continued. “The Court and Government do not point to a single historical law revoking a citizen’s Second Amendment right based on possible interpersonal violence. … In the interest of ensuring the Government can regulate one subset of society, today’s decision puts at risk the Second Amendment rights of many more.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, celebrated the Court’s ruling as a win for gun control.

As the Justice Department argued, and as the Court reaffirmed today, that commonsense prohibition is entirely consistent with the Court’s precedent and the text and history of the Second Amendment,” he said in a press release. “The Justice Department will continue to enforce this important statute, which for nearly 30 years has helped to protect victims and survivors of domestic violence from their abusers. And we will continue to deploy all available resources to support law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and victim advocates to address the pervasive problem of domestic violence.”

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