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Supreme Court upholds gun ban for domestic abusers in US v. Rahimi
Supreme Court upholds gun ban for domestic abusers in US v. Rahimi

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a federal law banning people with domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms, the first major Second Amendment decision since a 2022 ruling that expanded gun rights.

The court said the Constitution allows laws that strip gun rights from people deemed dangerous, one of several gun restrictions that have been under threat since the conservative majority in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

In an 8-1 ruling, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stated, “If a restraining order contains a finding that a person poses a credible threat to the physical safety of a domestic partner, that person may be prohibited – consistent with the Second Amendment – from possessing firearms while the order is in effect.”

Although the justices overwhelmingly upheld gun restrictions for domestic violence offenders, five of them wrote independently of Roberts, suggesting they have differing views on how lower courts should evaluate and consider historical practices when considering Second Amendment challenges to other gun-related laws.

“Some courts have misunderstood the methodology of our recent Second Amendment cases,” Roberts wrote. “These precedents should not create the impression that the law is trapped in amber.”

The court postponed hearing more difficult questions about the viability of other gun control measures, such as banning military-style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.

The 2022 Bruen The ruling required the government for the first time to invoke historical analogies in defending laws restricting firearms. The ruling has led to a flood of lawsuits challenging gun ownership restrictions, including this one. United States v. Rahimi.

Judge Clarence Thomas, author of Bruen The judge who rejected the decision was the only one to vote against it on Friday, writing that “no historical rule justifies the law in question.”

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland praised the court’s decision, saying the law “protects victims” by keeping guns out of the hands of people who threaten them.

“As the Department of Justice argued and as the Court affirmed today, this commonsense ban is entirely consistent with the Court’s precedent and the text and history of the Second Amendment,” Garland said in a statement.

The challenge to the law was brought by Zackey Rahimi, a drug dealer who was placed under a restraining order after an argument with his girlfriend in 2019. He argued that the government had violated his Second Amendment rights by prohibiting him from owning a firearm.

Rahimi knocked the woman to the ground in a parking lot, dragged her back to his car and shot a passerby, court records show. The friend escaped, but Rahimi later called her and threatened to shoot her if she told anyone about the attack. The couple has one child together.

A Texas court found that Rahimi had “committed family violence” and that it was “likely that such acts of violence would occur again in the future.” It issued a protective order. Order revoking Rahimi’s gun license, prohibiting him from possessing firearms, and warning him that possession of a firearm while the order was in effect could be a federal crime.

Rahimi later violated the protection order and was involved in five shootings between December 2020 and January 2021, a government report said.

Beginning of 2021 Rahimi was at his Texas home and police found “a .45 caliber pistol, a .308 caliber rifle, magazines, ammunition and a copy of the protection order,” the government said in its brief. He was charged with illegal possession of a firearm because there was a restraining order against him.

Rahimi argued in federal court that he had the right to own guns, but a judge ruled against him on the issue. He later pleaded guilty to the federal court charge and was sentenced to six years in prison. He continued to challenge the law, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reheard his case after the Supreme Court Bruen Verdict.

Bruen repealed a New York law that prohibited law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons outside their homes for self-defense. In this statement, Thomas established a new Test for gun laws: Restrictions on gun ownership must have a parallel in American history. The decision has put all kinds of gun laws in jeopardy and sparked disagreement among lower court judges about how to evaluate longstanding restrictions, in some cases wondering whether they should seek help from historians.

A unanimous panel of the 5th Circuit concluded that Rahimi was among those whose right to bear arms was protected by the Second Amendment, rejecting the historical comparisons the government cited to justify the law banning people with protective orders from owning guns.

Gun control advocates and groups representing victims of domestic violence praised the court on Friday for overturning the 5th Circuit’s ruling.

The Supreme Court “rightly refused to strike down a common-sense safety measure that has kept our families and communities safer for decades,” said Esta Soler, president of the nonprofit Futures Without Violence, in a statement.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled against the federal government in another gun rights case, striking down the Trump administration’s federal ban on “bump stocks” after the devices were used in a 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.

These devices allow rifles to fire bullets in rapid succession. In their 6-3 decision, the majority said bump stocks are not considered machine guns under a 1986 law that prohibits civilians from owning new versions of the weapons.

This is a developing story. It will be updated. Mark Berman and Justin Jouvenal contributed to this report.

By Everly