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SCOTUS: Domestic Violence Orders Can Block Possession of Firearms

In a major win for legal restrictions on guns, the Supreme Court on Friday overwhelmingly upheld a federal law that blocks people people who are subject to domestic-violence restraining orders from having firearms.

The 8-1 ruling was the high court's biggest Second Amendment decision since a 2022 ruling that expanded gun rights.

The Constitution permits laws that strip guns from those deemed dangerous, thte court ruled. It was one of several firearms restrictions that have been challenged since the conservative majority bolstered gun rights two years ago in a case called New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “an individual found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment.," the Washington Post reports.

The Bruen case required the government to cite historic analogues when defending laws that place limits on firearms, leading to many court challenges against limits on possessing firearms — including the one in the new case, United States v. Rahimi.

Zackey Rahimi, a drug dealer who was under a restraining order in 2019 after an argument with his girlfriend, argued that the government had violated his Second Amendment rights by blocking him from possessing guns.

Rahimi knocked the woman to the ground in a parking lot, dragged her to his car and fired a shot at a bystander. The girlfriend escaped, but Rahimi called her and threatened to shoot her if she told anyone about the assault.

A Texas court found that Rahimi had “committed family violence” and that such violence was “likely to occur again in the future.” It issued a protective order that suspended Rahimi’s gun license. He later was involved in five shootings between December 2020 and January 2021.

Bruen struck down a New York law barring law-abiding citizens from carrying guns outside the home for self-defense. Justice Clarence Thomas set a standard for gun laws that new restrictions on ownership must have a parallel in American history. The case has left lower court judges divided over how to evaluate long-standing restrictions, in some cases asking whether they should call on historians to help.

A unanimous 5th Circuit panel found that Rahimi was among those whose right to a weapon is protected by the Second Amendment. It rejected the historical comparisons that the government offered to justify the law barring those with protective orders from possessing guns.

In a dissent on Friday, Thomas said, "A firearm regulation that falls within the Second Amendment’s plain text is unconstitutional unless it is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. Not a single historical regulation justifies the statute at issue."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) said, “Today, the Court reaffirmed that the Second Amendment is not limitless and rejected a meritless challenge to an essential gun safety law. In doing so, they are protecting the lives of women and families across the nation. Unfortunately, Justice Thomas, the lone dissenter in the case, continues to isolate himself from a commonsense view of the limits of the Second Amendment."

John Feinblatt, president of the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, said of Friday's ruling that "common sense triumphed." He added, “As millions of domestic violence victims breathe a sigh of relief, it’s worth remembering who put them in jeopardy: extreme Trump-appointed judges on the Fifth Circuit who sided with an abuser who wanted to keep his guns."


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