SCOTUS Rules That Domestic Abusers Can Be Barred From Owning Guns

In a ruling announced Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law that would ban domestic abusers from owning a firearm. The 6-2 decision by the court said the law considers domestic assault a misdemeanor crime, which would prohibit any offenders from owning a gun.

SCOTUS rejected the arguments that this should only apply to those who knowingly committed acts of abuse, not those who acted “recklessly.”

“Congress’s definition of a ‘misdemeanor crime of violence’ contains no exclusion for convictions based on reckless behavior,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan, who delivered the court’s majority opinion. “A person who assaults another recklessly ‘use[s]’ force, no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, of course, disagreed with the ruling.

“Under the majority’s reading, a single conviction under a state assault statute for recklessly causing an injury to a family member — such as by texting while driving — can now trigger a lifetime ban on gun ownership,” Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion. “We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly.”

Thomas felt so strongly about allowing domestic abusers to have guns that, during oral arguments in February, he asked his first question in 10 years.

According to SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe: “This was the case of two Maine men who were convicted on state domestic violence charges and then found with firearms and charged with violating a federal law that prohibits domestic abusers from having firearms. The question was whether their convictions qualified under the statute.”

The court decided that the convictions did, in fact, qualify.

Advocates for smarter gun laws, like Everytown for Gun Safety, praised the court’s decision as a “victory for public safety.”

Finally, some good news in the fight to keep guns out of the wrong hands.