Supreme Court Upholds a Gun Control Law Intended to Protect Domestic Violence Victims 

The U.S. Supreme Court building (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a federal gun control law that is intended to protect victims of domestic violence.

In their first Second Amendment case since they expanded gun rights in 2022, the justices ruled 8-1 in favor of a 1994 ban on firearms for people under restraining orders to stay away from their spouses. The justices reversed a ruling from the federal appeals court in New Orleans that had struck down the law.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said the law uses “common sense” and applies only “after a judge determines that an individual poses a credible threat” of physical violence.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the author of the 2022 ruling in the Bruen case, dissented.

President Joe Biden, who has been critical of previous high-court rulings on guns other hot-button issues, praised the outcome.

“No one who has been abused should have to worry about their abuser getting a gun,” Biden said in a statement. “As a result of today’s ruling, survivors of domestic violence and their families will still be able to count on critical protections, just as they have for the past three decades.”

Last week, the court overturned a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, the rapid-fire gun accessories used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The court ruled that the Justice Department exceeded its authority in imposing that ban.

The domestic-violence case has been closely watched for its potential to affect cases in which other gun ownership laws have been called into question, including in the high-profile prosecution of Hunter Biden. Biden’s son was convicted of lying on a form to buy a firearm while he was addicted to drugs. His lawyers have signaled they will appeal.

A decision to strike down the domestic violence gun law might have signaled the court’s skepticism of the other laws as well. But Friday’s decision did not suggest that the court would necessarily uphold those law either.

The justices could weigh in soon in one or more of those other cases.

Many of the gun law cases grow out of the Bruen decision. That high court ruling not only expanded Americans’ gun rights under the Constitution but also changed the way courts are supposed to evaluate restrictions on firearms.

Roberts turned to history in his opinion. “Since the founding, our nation’s firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms,” he wrote.

Some courts have gone too far, Roberts wrote, in applying Bruen and other gun rights cases. “These precedents were not meant to suggest a law trapped in amber,” he wrote.

In dissent, Thomas wrote, the law “strips an individual of his ability to possess firearms and ammunition without any due process.”

The government “failed to produce any evidence” that the law is consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation, he wrote. “Not a single historical regulation justifies the statute at issue.”

Seven of the nine justices wrote opinions, spanning 94 pages, mainly focused on the proper use of history in evaluating gun restrictions and other limitations on constitutional rights.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that Roberts’ opinion “permits a historical inquiry calibrated to reveal something useful and transferable to the present day, while the dissent would make the historical inquiry so exacting as to be useless.” She was among the three liberal justices who dissented in the Bruen case.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was part of the Bruen majority, noted that the court probably will have many more cases about the reach of gun rights because “Second Amendment jurisprudence is in its early innings.” It was only in 2008 that the court declared for the first time that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

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