US Supreme Court upholds domestic-violence gun ban

Staff WritersReuters
The US Supreme Court has upheld a law preventing those subject to restraining orders owning a gun. (EPA PHOTO)
Camera IconThe US Supreme Court has upheld a law preventing those subject to restraining orders owning a gun. (EPA PHOTO) Credit: AAP

The US Supreme Court has upheld a federal law that makes it a crime for people under domestic violence restraining orders to have guns, handing a victory to President Joe Biden's administration as the justices opted not to further widen firearms rights after a major expansion in 2022.

The 8-1 ruling, authored by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, overturned a lower court's decision striking down the 1994 law as a violation of the US constitution's second amendment right to "keep and bear arms".

The New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals had concluded that the measure failed the Supreme Court's stringent test set in 2022 that required gun laws to be "consistent with the nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation" to comply with the second amendment.

Biden's administration defended the law as critical to protect public safety and abuse victims, who often are women.

It argued that the ban should survive because of the long tradition in the United States of taking guns from people deemed dangerous.

It emphasised that guns pose a particularly serious threat in domestic violence situations and also are extremely dangerous to police officers called to respond.

Roberts wrote in the ruling that since the founding of the US, firearm laws have targeted people who threaten physical harm to others.

"When a restraining order contains a finding that an individual poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner, that individual may - consistent with the Second Amendment - be banned from possessing firearms while the order is in effect," Roberts wrote.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the 2022 ruling called New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v Bruen, was the lone dissenter.

Thomas said that previous decision was clear.

"Not a single historical regulation justifies the statute at issue," Thomas wrote.

Thomas added that "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."

The case involved Zackey Rahimi, a Texas man who pleaded guilty in 2021 to illegally possessing guns in violation of this law while subject to a restraining order for assaulting his girlfriend in a parking lot and later threatening to shoot her.

Police found a pistol and rifle while searching his residence in connection with at least five shootings, including using an assault-type rifle to fire at the home of a man to whom he had sold drugs.

A federal judge rejected Rahimi's Second Amendment challenge and sentenced him to more than six years in prison.

Violating the domestic violence gun law initially was punishable by up to 10 years in prison but has since been raised to 15 years.

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