Supreme Court upholds ban on domestic abusers owning guns

The ruling in United States v. Rahimi was an 8-1 decision.
Supreme Court
Posted at 8:28 AM, Jun 21, 2024

Denver7's Jessica Crawford contributed to this report.

The Supreme Court has upheld a federal ban on domestic abusers owning guns.

The decision on Friday stems from the case of United States v. Rahimi, which centers around a federal law that prohibits someone under a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a gun.

The man at the center of the case, Zackey Rahimi, was involved in five shootings over two months while also the subject of a domestic violence restraining order.

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that "when an individual has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another, that individual may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment." The decision was backed by the court's three Democrat-appointed justices and five of six justices appointed by Republicans. Only conservative Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

Rahimi's defense team previously argued that banning him from having a gun was an infringement on his Second Amendment rights.

While police removed the firearm from his possession, a federal appeals court deemed this unconstitutional, writing, "Rahimi, while hardly a model citizen, is nonetheless part of the political community entitled to the Second Amendment's guarantees."

Rahimi's defense team had previously said that there was no comparative historical law for this case. At the same time, the government defended the existing law, saying there's a long history of disarming people who pose a threat to others.

Colorado was one of several states that filed a brief in support of laws protecting domestic violence victims from gun violence.

"An abuser is five times more likely to murder an intimate partner when they have a firearm," said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. "My reaction today is one of relief. This case had all of us on the edge of our seats, worried that gun safety laws that prevent domestic violence abusers from having firearms could have been invalidated."

In 2022, Colorado had a record year for domestic violence-related incidents.

"Domestic violence is, unfortunately, fairly common in our courts here in Colorado," said Morgan Minser, a family law and criminal defense attorney at Colorado-based law firm Jones Law Firm PC. "We've certainly seen an uptick in the wake of COVID and during COVID. So that definitely had a big impact on partnerships and on families."

At least 94 people in Colorado lost their lives in 2022 to domestic violence, according to the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board's 2023 Annual Report. Eighty-six percent of the domestic violence fatalities were the result of firearm injuries.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, President Joe Biden spoke out in a statement.

"No one who has been abused should have to worry about their abuser getting a gun. As a result of today’s ruling, survivors of domestic violence and their families will still be able to count on critical protections, just as they have for the past three decades," President Biden said.

"Throughout my career, I’ve worked to prevent domestic abusers from purchasing guns and to protect all Americans from the threat of gun violence. Thirty years ago, I wrote the Violence Against Women Act, and as president, I have strengthened the law and secured its highest-ever funding," said the president. "I signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that narrowed the so-called 'boyfriend loophole' so that dating partners convicted of domestic violence cannot buy a firearm. And I have taken dozens of executive actions to strengthen gun safety and end gender-based violence."

President Biden said he and Vice President Kamala Harris will continue to call on Congress to strengthen gun violence protections.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland also defended the Supreme Court's ruling in the case.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today in United States v. Rahimi upholds Congress’s longstanding prohibition on the possession of firearms by people subject to domestic-violence restraining orders. That law protects victims by keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals who pose a threat to their intimate partners and children," Garland said.

"As the Justice Department argued, and as the Court reaffirmed today, that commonsense prohibition is entirely consistent with the Court’s precedent and the text and history of the Second Amendment," he said.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control measures, further applauded the decision.

"Our country has stood at a tipping point, with the safety of survivors of domestic violence on the line. But today, we took a step toward protecting millions from their abusers," said Janet Carter, senior director of issues and appeals at Everytown Law, and former Supreme Court clerk.