Let me ask you about Gun Control. The question is, are you OK with a little Gun Control?
Did you know that some citizens, not just convicted felons, are prohibited from owning or possessing any firearms?
Under current Federal Law, the 2nd Amendment Rights of those who are the subject of a civil domestic violence protective order are automatically suspended.
However, that might not be the case for very long.
Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether a person who has recently committed domestic violence should get their gun ownership rights back. Let’s talk about the poster child for this potentially HUGE change in the law, and then examine how this Court might resolve this.
Background of the Case
In December 2019, Zackey Rahimi and his girlfriend had an argument in a parking lot in Arlington, Texas. She tried to leave, but Rahimi assaulted her and forced her into the car. Realizing that a bystander had seen him, he retrieved a gun and fired a shot. In the meantime, the girlfriend escaped the car and fled the scene. Rahimi later called her and threatened to shoot her if she told anyone about the assault.
Oh, it gets much worse.
The girlfriend then files for a domestic violence protective order in Family Court, which Rahimi agreed to. Part of that Order, pursuant to Texas law, Rahimi was prohibited from possessing any firearm for as long as the order was in effect, which was to be for 2 years.
Over the next year, he threatened another woman with a gun and participated in five more shootings. The shootings were for road rage, someone talking trash on social media, and then because his friend’s credit card was denied.
Rahimi was then convicted for being in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), and sentenced to six years in prison. He then immediately appealed the conviction to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 5th Circuit Court actually granted the appeal and overturned the conviction.
Why is that such a big deal? Well, this wasn’t some ultra-liberal west coast or New York Court of Appeals. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the MOST conservative appellate Courts in the Country, which establishes controlling caselaw for Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
After a 2022 2nd Amendment Rights victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, we were provided a new, and very strict, framework in which gun control laws must be analyzed. Using this framework, the 5th Circuit considered the “historical tradition of firearm regulation” and found that this domestic violence gun control law was a violation of Rahimi’s constitutional rights.
That leads us to the U.S. Supreme Court battle, where the State is now trying to reverse the 5th Circuit’s ruling because that ruling has created a ripple effect throughout the country.
History of 2nd Amendment and Domestic Violence
Historically, the 2nd Amendment has been interpreted to protect an individual’s right to bear arms. However, this right has never been absolute. Precedents have established the government’s authority to impose certain restrictions, especially when public safety is at stake.
The key challenge in this case lies in balancing historical interpretations with modern concerns of domestic violence, and likely the overall moral decay in our society.
Traditionally, laws have been implemented to disarm individuals who pose a threat, reflecting society’s agreement on the need to balance individual rights with community safety. The State’s argument leans heavily on this historical context, asserting that restricting firearm access for individuals under domestic violence protective orders is a continuation of these longstanding practices.
In contrast, the Defendant argues that there is no substantial historical precedent for such extensive restrictions, especially when applied to individuals who have not been criminally convicted. This perspective highlights a potential gap between historical practices of disarmament and the contemporary application of this law.
The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will not only address the constitutionality of the current law but will also set a precedent for how historical contexts are used to interpret the Second Amendment in relation to evolving societal issues.
The State’s Stance: Public Safety vs. Gun Rights
The State filed a brief in the case (BRIEF) setting out their argument.
The State’s argument is that this law is a necessary measure for public safety, particularly in the context of domestic violence. The State contends that this law is consistent with the Second Amendment and cites historical precedents permitting the regulation of firearms to prevent harm to individuals and society. They argue that individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders represent a clear risk, justifying the need for disarmament to protect potential victims.
The State contends that such restrictions have been a part of American legal tradition when public safety is at risk. This argument is grounded in the belief that certain limitations on the Second Amendment are permissible and necessary to safeguard the community, particularly vulnerable individuals.
The State wants to establish a precedent that affirms the government’s authority to impose restrictions on gun ownership in scenarios where there is a risk to public safety.
Defendant’s Counter: No Historical Precedent
The Defendant filed a brief in the case (BRIEF) setting out his argument.
The Defendant argues that this law is unjustifiably broad, and that this prohibition on firearm possession by individuals under domestic violence protective orders, infringes upon his fundamental right to bear arms.
The Defendant points out that these domestic violence protective order hearings can be held with only 48 hours’ notice and that the parties are not entitled to a court appointed attorney if indigent.
The Defendant’s argument pivots on the lack of historical precedent for such extensive restrictions, especially those applied to individuals who have not been criminally convicted but maintain their freedom and are only subject to a civil court order.
By focusing on the constitutional right to bear arms, the Defendant’s stance underscores the significance of individual liberties as enshrined in the Second Amendment. He argues that the law in question fails to strike a proper balance between public safety and constitutional rights, leading to an overreach that unfairly penalizes individuals who retain their civic rights.
How This Could Affect Gun Ownership Laws
The current makeup of our U.S. Supreme Court is 6 conservative leaning Justices vs 3 liberal leaning Justices.
If the Justices rule in the same manner they did in the 2022 Bruen decision, then it will be Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavenaugh, and Barrett vs. Sotomeyor, Kagan, and Jackson presumably ruling they way Breyer did in that opinion. During oral arguments, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Barrett both seemed to be critical of the Defendant’s position, and they could rule along with the more liberal Justices.
Regardless of the outcome, the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling in this case will have significant implications for gun ownership laws that either puts guns back into the hands of those who commit domestic violence, or justifies some measure of gun control.
So, I began with the question: Are you OK with a little gun control? What do you think? Should those who commit domestic violence get their 2nd Amendment rights back, or are you in favor of these laws prohibiting their gun ownership?
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Family Law Division
1101 Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3303
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479