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5th Circuit Strikes Down Law Prohibiting Alleged Domestic Abusers From Having Guns

Thursday in New Orleans, a unanimous panel of 5th Court justices, a conservative-leaning court, struck down a federal statute prohibiting possession of firearms by persons who are subject to a domestic violence-related restraining order, saying that it violates the Second Amendment under a 2022 case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision said that the law could not stand the Bruen test, which requires that gun laws have a historical analogy — to the firearm regulations in place at the time of the framing of the constitution. 

The decision by a three-judge panel is the latest and most recent significant decision dismantling gun restrictions since a Supreme Court ruling last June granting a broad right for people to carry firearms outside the home. 

The panel was made up of Judges Cory Wilson, James Ho, and Edith Jones, and two of them, Wilson and Ho, were nominated by former Republican President Donald Trump. Former President Ronald Reagan appointed Jones.

The Bruen ruling had created a new test for assessing firearms laws, saying restrictions must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” 

But Wilson, a Trump appointee, said the Bruen ruling made such a consideration irrelevant and that, from a historical perspective, the ban was “an outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted.”

Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said, “One of two things is true: Either this kind of blind, rigid, context-free, and common-sense-defying assessment of history is exactly what the Supreme Court intended in its landmark ruling last June in Bruen, or it isn’t.” 

“Either way, it’s incumbent upon the justices in the Bruen majority to clarify which one they meant – and to either endorse or reject the rather terrifying idea that individuals under an active domestic violence-related restraining order are nevertheless constitutionally entitled to possess firearms,” he added.

The ruling comes despite recent data that shows gun violence against women is at epidemic proportions in recent years, along with gun violence as a whole in the United States. 

Every month, an average of 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, and nearly a million more women have reported being shot by or shot at — or shot at — by domestic partners. 

And over 4.5 million women have reported being threatened with a gun by an intimate partner, according to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety.

According to the American Public Health Association, women are five times more likely to be killed by a partner using a gun. 

The addition of a half-dozen judges appointed by former President Donald Trump — the majority of which are young, far-right, and ambitious — has continually battled the Biden administration’s assertions of legal authority and the regulatory powers of federal agencies. 

Their recent rulings have been characterized by breaks with precedent reflecting Trump’s lasting legacy on the federal courts that operate one level below the Supreme Court, even alienating veteran conservatives on the court, who have criticized the newcomers for going too far.

In a written statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland disagreed with the ruling and said the Biden administration would undoubtedly appeal.

“Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent, or of the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, that statute is constitutional,” Garland said. “Accordingly, the Department will seek further review of the Fifth Circuit’s contrary decision.”

CNN Supreme Court Reporter Ariane de Vogue said on-air Friday that Garland might go directly to the Supreme Court to appeal, rather than the lower courts, because of the ultra-conservative makeup in the wake of Trump’s presidency. 

The 5th Circuit is based in New Orleans, and its decision applies in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and thus threw out the guilty plea of Zackey Rahimi, 23, of Kennedale, was under a February 2020 civil court order not to harass, stalk or threaten an ex-girlfriend and not to carry a firearm. 

But Rahimi admitted to possessing guns found in his home after prosecutors said he participated in five shootings in Dec. 2020 and Jan. 2021, shooting into the home of a person he was selling drugs to, firing at two automobile drivers and an off-duty Tarrant County deputy constable, in addition to shooting into the air at a Whataburger.

This week’s decision “potentially puts victims of domestic violence in far greater danger,” said Ken Shetter, president of the One Safe Place crime-fighting commission…There is a reason state and federal law prohibit those who commit domestic violence from possessing firearms — it is one of the two most significant indicators of risk of a homicide,” Shetter wrote by email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 

Shetter added that studies show that more than half of the men who have killed police officers have a documented history of partner violence. 

See the RA News Gun Violence Watch page to learn more about gun violence in Texas.

Dave Manning
Dave Manning
Dave Manning is a content creation professional with a background in multiple forms of media and communications. As a former university publications editor, staff, and freelance writer, he has created content for newspapers, magazines, and online media sites. He has also created content, both written and digital, for small businesses, global corporations, and nonprofit organizations. Aside from being a regular contributor to RA News, he is currently working on a novel for digital publication.


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