WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments on the legality of a federal law It makes it a crime for people subject to domestic violence restraining orders to possess weapons in latest major case to test its conservative majority’s willingness to further expand gun rights.
The justices heard an appeal from President Joe Biden’s administration of a lower court’s ruling striking down the law — intended to protect victims of domestic violence — as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to ” keep and carry weapons”.
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the measure failed a stringent test set by the Supreme Court in a 2022 hearing. decision which required gun laws to be “consistent with the nation’s historic tradition of gun regulation” in order to survive a Second Amendment challenge.
Some conservative justices questioned Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, defending the law on behalf of the Biden administration, and expressed skepticism about her argument that the Second Amendment allows laws that prohibit people who do not follow the law and are not responsible for owning guns, including domestic abusers. .
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts focused on the word “responsible,” suggesting it was too broad.
“I mean, don’t throw your recycling at the curb on Thursday, if it’s a serious problem, that’s irresponsible,” Roberts said, adding that “what seems irresponsible to some people may seem, well , it’s not a big deal for others.” He also cited the example of someone getting into a fist fight at a sporting event or going slightly over the speed limit.
Prelogar told the justices that the law is part of the national tradition of taking guns away from people deemed dangerous.
“Throughout our nation’s history, legislatures have disarmed those who have committed serious criminal acts or whose access to firearms poses a danger. For example, loyalists, rebels, minors, mentally ill people, criminals and drug addicts,” Prelogar said.
Outside the court, about 250 people attended a rally organized by gun safety and domestic violence prevention groups, calling on the justices to overturn the 5th Circuit’s decision. They carried signs reading “Gun Laws Save Lives,” “Protect Survivors” and “No Guns for DV (Domestic Violence) Abusers.”
The case involves Zackey Rahimi, a Texas man who pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegally possessing firearms in violation of the statute at issue while he was under a restraining order for assaulting his girlfriend in a parking lot and later threatened to shoot him. Police found the weapons during a search of his residence in connection with at least five shootings.
Advocacy groups have warned of the grave danger posed by armed attackers, citing studies that show the presence of weapons increases an abused intimate partner’s chances of death.
Prelogar also made this point and also told the justices: “Armed attackers also pose a great danger to police officers responding to domestic violence calls and to the general public – as demonstrated by Zackey Rahimi’s own conduct. »
“To address this acute threat, Congress and 48 states and territories are temporarily disarming people subject to domestic violence protection orders,” Prelogar added.
In a country deeply divided over how to combat gun violence, including frequent mass shootings, the Court’s conservative majority, 6-3, took a broad view of the Second Amendment and expanded gun rights fired in three historic decisions since 2008.
Its 2022 decision in a case called New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen recognized the constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense, overturning a New York state law.
Violating the law was initially punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but this has since been increased to 15 years.
A federal judge rejected Rahimi’s Second Amendment challenge and sentenced him to more than six years in prison. The 5th Circuit in February put aside Rahimi, concluding that while he was “hardly a model citizen,” the law at issue was an “outlier” that could not stand up to the new standards announced by the judges in the Bruen case.
Rahimi’s supporters have argued that judges too easily issue restraining orders in a context unfair process that results in the denial of constitutional firearm rights to accused attackers.
A decision is expected by the end of June.
Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham
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