Supreme Court upholds federal law banning domestic abusers from possessing guns

Published 12:21 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

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LANSING — Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in United States v. Rahimi (PDF), rejecting a challenge to the constitutionality of a federal law banning the possession of a gun by someone who has been the subject of a domestic violence restraining order.

In an 8-1 opinion, the Court held that when an individual has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the safety of another, that individual can be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., writing for the majority, explained that “[s]ince the founding, our Nation’s firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms. As applied to the facts of this case, Section 922(g)(8) fits comfortably within this tradition.”

This decision follows the Court’s 2022 decision, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which held that restrictions on firearms must be “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” In today’s opinion, Justice Roberts applied that test to this case, explaining that early gun laws “confirm what common sense suggests: When an individual poses a clear threat of physical violence to another, the threatening individual may be disarmed.”

Justice Clarence Thomas was the sole dissenting justice.

In response, Attorney General Dana Nessel issued the following statement: “Common-sense gun safety measures are essential to keeping firearms out of the wrong hands and preventing tragedies. Today, the Supreme Court correctly upheld that individuals who pose a credible threat to the safety of others may be temporarily disarmed. The vast majority of states afford this protection to their citizens, including Michigan, and this decision will help protect countless lives. I am grateful for the Court’s opinion on this matter and look forward to continuing to work with Governor Whitmer and the legislature to protect Michigan residents from gun violence.”

Through a civil protection order, Mr. Rahimi had been barred by a local Texas court from harassing, stalking, or threatening his ex-girlfriend, and from possessing a firearm. Afterward, Rahimi was involved in several shootings over the course of just a few months. As a result, he was charged in federal court under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8), which prohibits the possession of firearms by persons subject to domestic violence retraining order. Rahimi admitted to possessing multiple firearms, but claimed the law was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.

According to the federal government, at least 48 States and territories, including Michigan, have laws that permit disarming those who are subject to domestic-violence protection orders. Just this year, with the strong support of the Department of Attorney General, Michigan enacted a robust package of bills of common-sense gun safety measures, including a ban on the purchase or possession of a firearm by anyone convicted of a domestic violence offense for 8 years following the conviction.  This law will reduce the risk that convicted domestic abusers will seek retribution or harm others.