On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that might limit convicted domestic abusers’ ability to purchase a gun.
The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which applied the criteria set by the Supreme Court in New York Rifle & Pistol Assn. v. Bruen, which requires gun control measures to be founded on historical precedent.
In March, an appeals court overturned a sentence against Zackey Rahimi, who had been barred from having a rifle under a federal law passed in 1994.
“Rahimi, while hardly a model citizen, is nonetheless among ‘the people’ entitled to the Second Amendment’s guarantees, all other things equal,” 5th Circuit Judge Cory Wilson wrote in the court’s decision, according to the Washington Examiner.
The Biden administration appealed that ruling, saying there was “strong historical evidence supporting the general principle that the government may disarm dangerous individuals.”
According to Courthouse News Service, federal and state restrictions on domestic abusers owning firearms date back nearly 30 years.
During Tuesday’s arguments, the New York Times reported that the justices were inclined to sustain the law.
“Someone who poses a risk of domestic violence is dangerous,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said.
Justice Neil Gorsuch also appeared inclined to support restricting the ability of abusers to own a gun, noting in the case before the court, “We have a finding of a credible threat. The dangerousness argument seems most apparent there.”
According to The Washington Post, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar stated that the law is based on historical precedence.
“Throughout our nation’s history, legislatures have disarmed those who have committed serious criminal conduct or whose access to guns poses a danger — for example, loyalists, rebels, minors, individuals with mental illness, felons, and drug addicts,” she said, adding that these exists “no historical evidence that those laws were thought to violate the right to keep and bear arms.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had a brief conversation with Rahimi’s federal public attorney, J. Matthew Wright, on whether Rahimi is dangerous.
“You don’t have any doubt that your client’s a dangerous person, do you?” Roberts asked.
“Your Honor, I would want to know what ‘dangerous person’ means at the moment,” Wright replied.
“Well, it means someone who’s shooting, you know, at people. That’s a good start,” Roberts said.
Liberal Justice Elena Kagan told Wright that allowing domestic abusers to have guns would undermine public safety, according to Reuters.
“It just seems to me that your argument applies to a wide variety of disarming actions — bans, what have you — that we take for granted now because it’s so obvious that people who have guns pose a great danger to others, and you don’t give guns to people who have the kind of history of domestic violence that your client has or to the mentally ill,” Kagan said.