In the latest pertinent case to test the readiness American conservative majority to further expand gun rights, U.S. Supreme Court Judges appeared inclined to uphold the constitutionality of a federal statute that makes it a crime for people under domestic violence restraining orders to possess guns.
The Judges heard arguments in President Joe Biden’s administration’s appeal of a lower court verdict that struck down the law – intended to protect victims of domestic abuse – as a violation of the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the measure failed a stringent test set by the Supreme Court in a 2022 ruling that required gun laws to be “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” in order to survive a Second Amendment challenge.
Some of the conservative justices, who hold a 6-3 majority, questioned the scope of the administration’s argument that, under the Second Amendment, people who are not “law-abiding and responsible” – categories that include domestic abusers – may be barred from possessing guns.
Some of their questions, however, signaled openness to finding the law in harmony with the Second Amendment by applying a standard that would disarm people deemed dangerous, as opposed to merely irresponsible.
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts focused on the word “responsible,” suggesting it was too broad.
Prelogar argued that the law fits within the nation’s historical tradition of taking guns from people who have committed crimes or whose access to guns poses a danger – “for example, loyalists, rebels, minors, individuals with mental illness, felons and drug addicts.”
The case involves Zackey Rahimi, a Texas man who pleaded guilty 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 the guns while searching his residence in connection with at least five shootings.
Advocacy groups have cited studies showing the presence of a gun increases the likelihood a domestic abuse incident will turn deadly. Prelogar also made the point.