Survivors at Risk: Supreme Court Weighs 30-year-old Federal Gun Law Safeguarding Domestic Violence Victims

For almost three decades, a federal law acting as a lifeline for domestic violence survivors has been in effect. The law, which prohibits individuals under domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns, has been a critical protective barrier for victims, given the frightening statistics: women whose abusive partners have access to firearms are five times more likely to be killed than those whose partners are without guns. Disturbingly, about one-third of female murder victims are slain by intimate partners, with the majority of these violent acts carried out using firearms.

This vital law, however, is now on the verge of being compromised. A southern-based conservative federal appeals court opted last February to prioritize gun rights over the lives of domestic violence survivors. They did so by siding with an alleged abuser who claimed that his Second Amendment rights were violated by a gun prohibition linked to his restraining order. Now, this pivotal case has made its way to the Supreme Court.

The case revolves around Zackey Rahimi, a Texas man accused of assaulting his girlfriend and threatening her life. He was slapped with a two-year restraining order, which, among other limitations, suspended his handgun license and prohibited him from possessing a firearm. Yet Rahimi blatantly violated this order, threatening another woman with a gun, and reportedly participating in five shootings around Arlington, Texas, in a span of just two months.

The Supreme Court’s involvement stems from a significant gun-rights decision from last year. The court upended a New York state law that only granted concealed-carry licenses to those who could demonstrate a “special need” for self-protection. The decision also profoundly altered how gun control laws are evaluated under the Second Amendment. It decreed that the only constitutional gun restrictions are those viewed as “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

Following this ruling, the Fifth Circuit revisited Rahimi’s case. It was argued by the federal government that the law removing guns from those with domestic violence restraining orders aligned with the Nation’s historical practice of disarming individuals considered “dangerous.” However, the Fifth Circuit countered this argument, declaring that the modern federal law was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court now has the power to expand or overturn the Fifth Circuit’s ruling during its next term. If expanded, it would apply beyond Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, potentially stripping away a federal law that has safeguarded survivors for nearly 30 years. On the flip side, overturning it could reinstate this crucial law, preserving a longstanding shield for domestic violence victims.

As young, politically engaged readers of TYT, it’s crucial for us to be cognizant of these developments. The fate of this law, designed to protect the vulnerable, will undoubtedly shape the future of both gun control and domestic violence protection in the United States. It’s not just about partisan politics; it’s about the real, tangible impact on people’s lives.