The Epoch Times| by Jack Phillips| August 18, 2023
DP News Summary Talking Points:
- The Biden administration submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court asserting that the Second Amendment does not extend to domestic abusers, in response to a case involving a Texas man, Zackey Rahimi, charged with illegal gun possession while subject to a domestic violence restraining order.
- Lawyers representing the U.S. government argued that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms is not unlimited and can be restricted for individuals under domestic-violence protective orders, as they pose a significant threat to their partners and others.
- The case’s outcome could potentially have implications for firearm possession rights and domestic violence prevention measures across the country.
Weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on whether people under domestic violence restraining orders have the right to possess firearms, lawyers for the U.S. government filed a brief arguing that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to domestic abusers.
The case involves a Texas man, Zackey Rahimi, charged with illegal gun possession while subject to a domestic violence restraining order after assaulting his girlfriend. Rahimi challenged the law after being charged under it in 2021.
“The Second Amendment does not prohibit Congress from disarming Rahimi and other individuals subject to domestic-violence protective orders,” U.S. lawyers, overseen by the solicitor general’s office, wrote this week (pdf). “Although the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms, that right is not unlimited,” it added.
“Individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders pose an obvious danger to their intimate partners because guns often cause domestic violence to escalate to homicide and because abusers often use guns to threaten and injure their victims. Armed abusers additionally endanger people beyond their partners—such as children, bystanders, and police officers.”
According to court filings, Mr. Rahimi, who had a history of dealing drugs including cocaine, knocked his girlfriend to the ground after an argument in a parking lot, dragged her to his car, and shoved her inside, causing her head to hit the dashboard, according to court papers. After realizing a bystander had seen his actions, according to the filing, he retrieved a gun and fired a shot.
Mr. Rahimi later threatened to shoot his girlfriend. She obtained a court-approved restraining order, but Rahimi was arrested for violating it, the papers said.
Court papers said he was involved in five shootings in the Arlington, Texas area between December 2020 and January 2021. That included one in which he fired bullets using a rifle into the home of a person to whom he sold drugs. He was caught with a pistol and rifle during a police search of his home, the papers said.
A lower court judge rejected his Second Amendment argument, and Mr. Rahimi subsequently pleaded guilty, receiving a six-year prison sentence. He ultimately prevailed on appeal, with the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February declaring the law unconstitutional in a ruling that applied to Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals initially had upheld the law but withdrew its opinion following the Supreme Court’s landmark Second Amendment ruling last year. But after applying last year’s Supreme Court ruling on New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the 5th Circuit concluded that banning people under domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms was “an outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted.”
That decision came from a three-judge panel consisting of Judges Cory Wilson, James Ho, and Edith Jones. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Ho were nominated by former Republican President Donald Trump, while Mr. Jones was nominated by former Republican President Ronald Reagan.
But the U.S. argued that the 5th Circuit could not justify its conclusion that the Second Amendment can bar both states and Congress from “disarming individuals whom courts have found to pose a specific threat of domestic violence,” adding that “it may disarm persons who are not law-abiding, responsible citizens regardless of whether they are among ‘the people.'”
Meanwhile, Chuck Michel, the head of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, told The Associated Press that the issue with some domestic abuse laws like the one the federal appeals court targeted earlier this year is that they are too broad. In one example, he cited a client whose neighbor filed a restraining order against him for pointing a security camera at their property.
“They lost their gun rights,” he said. “When they do a blanket prohibition without considering individualized circumstances, they shoot the dogs with the wolves.”
Twenty-three states, mostly Democratic-led, urged the Supreme Court to hear the dispute, as did groups advocating for the prevention of gun violence and domestic abuse.
When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, pro-gun control groups urged the court to keep the measure intact.
Douglas Letter, the chief legal officer of the Brady Campaign gun control group, said that he believes the court will issue an order “correcting this terribly misguided ruling,” handed down by the 5th Appeals Court.
“Prohibiting domestic violence abusers from accessing firearms is common-sense, life-saving, and constitutional,” Letter said in a statement. “Firearms are the most common weapons used in domestic violence homicides, with female intimate partners more likely to be murdered with a gun than by all other means combined.”
The case is U.S. v. Rahimi, and it will be heard when the court’s next term starts in October. The Supreme Court will then likely hand down a ruling in June of next year.
Reuters contributed to this report.