On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will face a significant case that presents a conflict between the Second Amendment’s right to own guns and a law designed to safeguard victims of domestic violence by restricting access to firearms for their accused abusers.
The court will hear arguments in the dispute, marking the first time since its conservative majority implemented a new evaluation method for determining the constitutionality of gun regulations. This has caused frustration and confusion among federal judges across the country as they face new legal challenges to existing laws.
12 people were killed in a Virginia Beach municipal building
However, the events are taking place during a time when a recent mass shooting has shaken a community in the United States. This incident occurred less than two weeks ago, where 12 individuals lost their lives in a government building in Virginia Beach.
A recent shooting in Lewiston, Maine has sparked renewed demands for the government to take action against gun violence.
According to a significant ruling made by the Supreme Court almost 17 months ago, the government is required to enact laws that are comparable to the present-day standard being considered, in order to demonstrate that it aligns with the country’s past and established practices of firearm control.
The 5th Circuit determined that the comparisons made by the prosecutors in their investigation of past events were inadequate. They also stated that the law in question goes against the type of gun regulations allowed by the Second Amendment. The Justice Department then took the case to the Supreme Court.
Agreed upon in the latter part of June.
To examine the ruling made by the 5th Circuit.
According to Nelson Lund, a law professor at George Mason University, the court had limited options when it came to accepting this case. After the 5th Circuit ruled that the statute was unconstitutional, the solicitor general was essentially obligated to request a review by the court. Additionally, the court likely felt obligated to take on the case since a federal statute had been deemed unconstitutional.
Lund anticipates significant debate regarding the specific burden of proof that Bruen imposes on the government during arguments. This pertains to the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen from last year.
According to a document submitted by the Biden administration, long-standing beliefs and customs support the idea that the Second Amendment permits Congress to disarm individuals who do not follow the law and are not responsible citizens. The administration referenced historical laws from the time of America’s founding that allowed for the disarming of individuals deemed to be a threat. The Solicitor General, Elizabeth Prelogar, who represents the government in front of the Supreme Court, also cautioned that the presence of a firearm significantly increases the likelihood of domestic violence escalating to murder.
Prelogar stated that the court has acknowledged that the only distinguishing factor between a woman who has been abused and a woman who has been killed is the possession of a firearm. This relates to an opinion penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor for a united court in 2014.
The court’s ruling in 2022 strongly stated that Congress and the states have the authority to regulate firearms in order to protect the public, including the ability to disarm individuals who do not follow the law and are not responsible citizens. Prelogar emphasized that the gun law being debated aligns with this long-standing tradition.
According to Jennifer Becker from the Battered Women’s Justice Project, the national background check system has stopped over 77,000 individuals with domestic violence restraining orders from buying guns since it was established in 1998.
Becker stated that the intention is not to confiscate all firearms from individuals. Rather, it is to temporarily remove guns from those who have been deemed by a court to be a present threat.
However, Rahimi’s federal public defenders argued in a court filing that there is no precedent in the country’s history for a federal law that disarms individuals under domestic violence restraining orders. They assert that this measure is in violation of the court’s framework and therefore unconstitutional.
According to Rahimi’s attorneys, the government is unable to provide evidence of a close family member or even a distant relative that could be considered a “historical twin.”
This is the first case the justices will hear regarding gun rights since their ruling in June 2022. It gives the court a chance to clarify how lower courts should use the history-and-tradition test. Since the conservative majority’s Second Amendment ruling, there have been contradictory decisions from courts considering challenges to commonly accepted firearms laws. Additionally, laws prohibiting felons from owning firearms and disarming individuals who use illegal drugs have been deemed invalid.
Esther Sanchez-Gomez, litigation director at Giffords Law Center, emphasized the significance of Rahimi’s case not only due to the potential consequences for the law and individuals directly impacted, but also for the court’s ability to rectify any errors. Sanchez-Gomez believes that this case presents an opportunity for the court to clarify the requirements of the new history-bound test, provide guidance on its application, and clearly outline the reassurances and limitations stated in previous Second Amendment cases regarding the constitutionality of various gun laws.
Shira Feldman, who is in charge of handling legal cases involving the Constitution at Brady, a group that supports gun control, expressed her hope that the Supreme Court will offer clarity on how courts should approach examining historical evidence and determining appropriate modern-day regulations. This includes determining the number of laws necessary for the government to fulfill its responsibility, where these laws should originate from, and whether they should pertain to specific populations or regions.
She stated that these are inquiries that Bruen refuses to address and many courts have been facing difficulties with.
A number of organizations that support the Second Amendment and advocate for gun control, as well as Democratic politicians, prosecutors, and public defenders, have provided their opinions on the dispute through friend-of-the-court briefs to the justices.
Several parties have expressed their opinions on the matter, with pro-Second Amendment groups advocating for broader gun rights and Democrats and gun control organizations asking the court to uphold certain limitations on firearms.
However, Rahimi’s situation has also sparked unexpected partnerships. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and National Association of Federal Defenders are supporting Rahimi in the case, aligning them with firearms advocacy organizations such as the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.
The National Association of Federal Defenders contended that the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment extends beyond individuals who are considered “law-abiding” and responsible. Similarly, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argued that protection orders should not solely apply to those who are not “law-abiding,” as they could still face prosecution under the disarmament law. These organizations, which represent federal public and community defenders and criminal defense attorneys, expressed concerns that restricting the Second Amendment only to those who are deemed “law-abiding” and “responsible” is ambiguous and could have sweeping consequences.
Phil Sorrells, the Criminal District Attorney of Tarrant County and a self-proclaimed conservative Republican, has received endorsements from former President Donald Trump and former Texas Governor Rick Perry. He, along with other prosecutors in Texas, is backing the Biden administration’s argument that the Second Amendment does not provide protection for defendants like Rahimi.
Sorrells and his colleagues in Texas state that there is substantial proof that individuals under a protective order do not possess firearms for self-protection. These weapons are not being legally held and instead are used as tools of intimidation, causing fear, and asserting control.
A determination is anticipated to be made before June concludes.