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The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in a case involving Second Amendment rights for someone accused of domestic abuse, appearing to side against a lower court’s ruling and in favor of the Biden administration.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, justices heard arguments in an appeal of a lower court’s ruling striking down a federal law that barred people under a domestic violence restraining order from being able to possess a firearm, “teeing up a possible narrow ruling over the law in question.”
The report added:
United States v. Rahimi is the high court’s first major Second Amendment case since Justice Clarence Thomas and the Republican-appointed majority ruled 6-3 that firearms regulations must be consistent with the nation’s “historical tradition.” That case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, featured a successful challenge to the Empire State’s handgun licensing regime and established a new legal framework for evaluating gun laws.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans sided with Texas resident Zackey Rahimi earlier this year in holding that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), a federal statute barring anyone who is subject to a domestic violence restraining order from having a firearm, is a violation of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The ruling was lambasted by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose office appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
“The only difference between a battered woman and a dead woman is the presence of a gun,” Justice Department Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued before the justices on Tuesday as the proceeding began, the Examiner reported.
At one point, Chief Justice John Roberts asked the solicitor general what test the high court should adopt in order to address any concerns about the way the 5th Circuit ruled for Rahimi, who is also facing charges for disorderly and violent use of a gun in public. Roberts also asked if that test should consider a person’s potential risk to society.
“Just to be clear, your argument today is that [the Second Amendment] doesn’t apply to people who present the threat of dangerousness, whether you want to characterize them as responsible or irresponsible, whatever the test that you’re asking us to adopt turns on dangerousness,” Roberts told Prelogar.
“Correct. For those who are not responsible citizens,” she replied. “I do want to be clear that we think there are different principles that apply with those who are not law-abiding.”
At another juncture, Thomas asked the solicitor general if “not responsible” and “dangerous” mean the same thing when it comes to disarming some citizens.
“This case focuses on the ‘not responsible citizens’ principle and, in this context, we think that history and tradition show that it applies to those whose possession of firearms would pose an unusual danger beyond the ordinary citizen with respect to harm to themselves or harm to others,” Prelogar responded.
A majority of the GOP-appointed justices, including Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Roberts, appeared hesitant to agree with the 5th Circuit’s interpretation of Bruen alighing with their view of that that landmark case means, which became clear when public defender J. Matthew Wright, who is representing Rahimi, presented his arguments.
Afterward, some of the justices were skeptical of Wright’s argument supporting domestic abusers’ right to possess firearms. That included Justice Elena Kagan, who suggested Wright was “running away from [his] argument … because the implications of your argument are just so untenable that you have to say, ‘No, that’s not really my argument.’”
Her sentiment was furthered when Barrett told fellow justices and Wright that she was “so confused” over his argument.
The public defender responded that he was departing from long established law and instead working within the framework the high court established in Bruen.