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Supreme Court Just Might Not Let Domestic Violencers Keep Guns. Or It Might ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Questions at oral arguments seemed pretty skeptical at least.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case challenging the federal government’s ability to ban gun ownership for people subject to protective orders in domestic violence cases. In last year’s big gun rights case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, the Court held that people have a right to carry their guns almost anywhere they want. That has thrown gun laws around the country into question, even the ones you’d think would be pretty damned obvious, like No Guns for Domestic Abusers. But you see, the Bruen decision, written by Clarence Thomas, set up a new standard for judging Second Amendment cases: Gun laws are only constitutional if there were “analogous” laws at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified, even if firearms and America have changed considerably since then.
Yr Wonkette’s Robyn Pennacchia previewed the case yesterday, noting that studies show again and again that guns make everything worse in abusive relationships:
A study published in 2021 determined that “in more than two-thirds (68.2%) of mass shootings analyzed, the perpetrator either killed family or intimate partners or the shooter had a history of domestic violence” and “that DV-related mass shootings were associated with a greater fatality rate.” […]
Ah, but the Founders didn’t even have laws against domestic violence, say the pro-gun law firms, so none of that stuff counts now.
The case involves a gun-humping creep named Zackey Rahimi, who has a habit of shooting people (five shooting incidents in December 2020 and January 2021) and shouldn’t have been in possession of a firearm at all because his girlfriend had successfully gotten a protective order against him. That’s a federal crime, but Rahimi’s attorneys, supported by all the gun groups, argued that Bruen invalidated the law. The troglodytes on the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court agreed, because nobody ever said a “well-regulated militia” must exclude violent domestic abusers.
Here’s the audio of today’s oral arguments, in which most of the justices seemed skeptical that their decision went quite that far. How’s that for a small mercy?
Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued for the Biden administration that even if domestic violence has only been treated as a crime in relatively recent decades, the idea that guns should be kept away from dangerous people goes back all the way to the days when you had to load your musket with a lead ball and some powdered Whigs:
"That principle is firmly grounded in the Second Amendment's history and tradition," Prelogar said. "Throughout our nation's history legislatures have disarmed those who have committed serious criminal conduct or whose access to guns poses a danger."
Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was in the majority in the 2022 case, indicated she agreed with Prelogar, saying that "the legislature can make judgments to disarm people consistently with the Second Amendment based on dangerousness."
While some of the justices seemed worried that state laws might infringe on the gun rights of otherwise law-abiding spouse abusers, NBC News reports, none seemed disposed to strike down the federal law, at least as far as reflected in the questions they asked, which tended to be critical of Rahimi’s attorney, federal public defender J. Matthew Wright.
The Washington Post points out that when questioned by Justices Brett Kegstand and Elena Kagan,
Wright acknowledged that other areas of federal law might be endangered if the court accepted his argument. For example, background checks that prevent those who are subject protective orders from buying firearms, a law that Kavanaugh said had resulted in 75,000 gun-purchasing denials in 25 years.
Kagan said Wright was “running away” from his brief in the case “because the implications of your argument are so untenable.”
At one point in the questioning, Chief Justice John Roberts tried to pin down Wright on the question of whether Rahimi is in fact a “dangerous” person.
“Well, to the extent that's pertinent, you don't have any doubt that your client's a dangerous person, do you?” Roberts asked.
“Your Honor, I would want to know what 'dangerous person' means,” the attorney, J. Matthew Wright, began to say, before Roberts interjected.
“Well, it means someone who's shooting, you know, at people. That's a good start,” the chief justice said, drawing laughs from the courtroom.
Wright conceded, “that’s fair.”
Prelogar closed by asking the justices to rule in a way that would clarify what she said were “misinterpretations” of Bruen that have already shown up in lower court decisions, such as cases in which judges decided that maybe there weren’t clear “historical precedents” for keeping guns out of the hands of
“armed career criminals who have multiple convictions for aggravated assault, drug trafficking, armed robbery — clearly violent crimes — because we don't have a sufficient historical analog disarming those subject to precisely those crimes at the founding.”
But golly, shouldn’t violent criminals also be able to have a gun to protect themselves against government tyranny? We really do have to take into consideration the possibility that the Founders were in fact the complete idiots that the Alito-Thomas Court believes they were.
The Court isn’t likely to rule on this until June of next year, leaving violent abusive spouses in some doubt of what they’ll be allowed to get away with.
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