Thanks to a Texas case being heard in front of the U.S. Supreme Court next month, domestic abusers may once again be free to purchase and own firearms without restriction.
The case is United States v. Rahimi. Zackey Rahimi is an Arlington man who went on a shooting spree in December 2020 and January 21. Though no one was injured or killed, Rahimi fired his gun during several emotional outbursts, including after a traffic accident and following his credit card being declined at a Whataburger.
Rahimi was not supposed to own firearms because he was under a restraining order filed by his ex-girlfriend, who he allegedly assaulted. Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), anyone who “is subject to a court order that restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child,” is prohibited from owning a gun.
Convicted domestic abusers have been prohibited from owning guns in the United States since 1968. This was expanded to include long-term restraining orders in 1994. The Supreme Court has consistently held up the law against challenges, and even expanded it to include relationships that don’t include cohabitation in United States v. Hayes. In United States v. Castleman, the court expanded it again to include misdemeanor convictions related to domestic assault.
However, there hasn’t been a case like this since the conservative supermajority took over the Supreme Court during the Trump Administration. The current court has a mixed view on gun rights. On one hand, it held that individuals were allowed to carry guns in public for self-defense purposes under the Second Amendment. On the other, the court declined to hear a case from Missouri designating the state as a “Second Amendment sanctuary” where state officials were not required to uphold federal gun laws, essentially ruling that Missouri could not supersede the federal government.
This test of intimate partner abusers’ right to own guns comes during a very turbulent time. Roughly 70 American women are shot by intimate partners every month. Two-thirds of mass shootings have some link to domestic violence, with the sprees either starting as an incident or involving a perpetrator with a history. The link between intimate partner violence and gun deaths has been scientifically justified for more than half a century.
That link is obvious to the people who run Texas women shelters. As Rahimi makes its way to oral arguments, local shelters report victims receiving a wave of photos and videos from their abusers holding guns. These are clearly threats and will likely only increase if the court rules in favor of Rahimi. Once again, Texas is at the forefront of the discussion whether public safety should be ignored in favor of unrestricted firearm access, even if the people accessing them have a noted history of violence.