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Colorado advocates push Supreme Court to uphold domestic violence gun control law

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Posted at 5:38 PM, Nov 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-09 22:09:12-05

DENVER — Nearly 30 years ago, Ruth Glenn learned the dangers of putting a gun in the hands of an abuser. Her then-husband Cedric violated his restraining order and shot her three times. Glenn survived, while Cedric took his own life four months later.

Just two years after Glenn's harrowing experience, the federal government passed a law prohibiting people facing domestic violence restraining orders from having guns.

"Guns are to commit murder, as much as they are as a tool to keep victims and survivors under their control," said Glenn.

This week, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments challenging the 1994 law. The closely watched case is the first one involving guns to reach the justices since their Bruen decision last year, which expanded gun rights and changed the way courts evaluate whether restrictions on firearms violate the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms.”

The challenge to the law stems from a 2019 case in Texas.

Zackey Rahimi was placed under a restraining order after he threatened and beat his then-girlfriend. Rahimi had to turn over his gun, but after he challenged in the law in lower courts, he was successful.

The Supreme Court then took up the case and Glenn led a rally, urging the justices to uphold the current law.

"If you have a protection order, but you're told that the abusive party does not have to remove their gun or relinquish their firearm, it's scary," said Glenn.

Glenn isn't the alone in urging action from the court. Pueblo native Gabrielle Skubal said she lost faith in the justice system after the death of her best friend, Nicole Stephenson, in 2020.

Stephenson was killed in Pueblo by her ex-boyfriend, Nathan Turner, who was previously arrested on kidnapping and abuse charges three times before.

Turner took a plea deal on the charges of manslaughter and kidnapping. The 10th Judicial District Attorney, Jeff Chostner, explained the medical evidence was not conclusive as to a cause of death. The plea deal was based on the evidence available, rather than risking acquittal, according to Chostner.

"I had one vision of what justice looked like in my head from growing up, and from what I was taught, and then I had a whole 'nother experience," said Skubal.

Stephenson was found clinging to life on Jan. 27, 2020 but after three weeks at the hospital, she passed away following a negative reaction to treatment. Skubal said the murder hit closer to home, since she had previously considered Turner a friend.

"Somebody that I considered a good friend not only murdered my best friend, which is unforgivable, but like, how could I be friends with a murderer?" said Skubal. "How could I have not known this whole time?”

Now a fierce advocate for domestic violence survivors, Skubal argues that the removal of the 1994 law would be a step back for victims.

"Why are we looking to lessen the the gun laws?" asked Skubal. "The trend shows that more deaths are happening, so why are we making it easier for domestic violence offenders to do what they do.”

After hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court seems poised to uphold the 1994 law and deny Rahimi's previous appeal.

But supporters of Rahimi said the appeals court got it right when it looked at American history and found no restriction close enough to justify the gun ban. They also object to the hearing process under which restraining orders can be issued as insufficiently protective of the rights of people like Rahimi.

Although the result is still uncertain, Glenn believes the latest words by the court are encouraging.

"The court seems to be focusing in on how dangerous it would be without the law and that's good news," said Glenn.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, help is available through Violence Free Colorado or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

Colorado advocates push Supreme Court to uphold domestic violence gun control law

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