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Supreme Court to consider whether domestic abusers can own guns

The U.S. Supreme Court
Zach Gibson
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Getty Images
The U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case that could allow people who are found to pose a credible threat of violence against their partner or child to retain the right to own and use guns. At issue is a 1994 amendment to the Federal Firearms Act that prohibits those who are actively subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms.

The case focuses on Zackey Rahimi, a man living in Arlington, Texas, who agreed to a protective order in February 2020 after allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend. While the order expressly prohibited Rahimi from possessing a firearm, he was involved in five shootings in and around the city of Arlington between December 2020 and January 2021. After police officers found firearms at his home, Rahimi pled guilty to violating the Federal Firearms Act.

This past spring, however, an appeals court vacated Rahimi's conviction on the grounds that the 1994 amendment was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. In doing so, the court relied on last year's landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that said modern gun regulations must be consistent with historical traditions of firearm regulation. From here on out, courts are only supposed to look at legal understandings at the time that the Bill of Rights was enacted when assessing whether a modern gun regulation is permissible under the Second Amendment.

Over the past year, lower courts have been busy figuring out how to apply the new ruling. For example, just this past week, a Mississippi district court judge ruled that permanently prohibiting a man from owning a gun because of a felony conviction was not consistent with historical tradition and would thus violate the Second Amendment.

By agreeing to take up Rahimi's case, the Supreme Court will likely provide more clarity on what the decision means and how far it goes.

The court will hear oral arguments in the case this fall.

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Meghanlata Gupta
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