Supreme Court Gun Case Could Reframe Gun Ownership and Change Lives for Domestic Abuse Victims

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Within mere weeks of the deadliest shooting of 2023, the US Supreme Court has found itself once again in the midst of a battle between history and the present. Since 2022’s New York hand-gun case—in which the Supreme Court struck down a New York law requiring individuals to have “proper cause” to carry handguns—SCOTUS has become more and more critical of restrictive gun laws. In last year’s case, the Supreme Court argued that gun regulation must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation [the 2nd Amendment].” What that meant, essentially, is that very little gun restriction has been tolerated. In a world vastly different from the one in which the 2nd Amendment was written, how can modern lawmakers be held to the standards of lawmakers in antiquity? 

The battle lines have been drawn in the most recent Supreme Court case on gun restriction. On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, the Court heard United States v. Rahimi regarding the legality of a Texas prohibition on gun ownership for individuals who are under legal restraints for committing domestic abuse. The law is intended to keep women and children safe from domestic abusers, especially in light of recent statistics showing that more than half of female homicide victims are killed in instances of domestic abuse. Additionally, a domestic abuse victim is five times more likely to die if a gun is present in the household. With that in mind, the Texas law is highly pertinent in today’s world and could save many lives. However, is it rooted in the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation? 

This is the question that U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar sought to answer in her argument. Her case rests on a historical precedent of disarming “those who have committed serious criminal conduct or whose access to guns poses a danger.” The defendant, Zackey Rahimi, is a clear instance of someone with a criminal record whose access to guns poses a danger. 

In 2019, Rahimi’s girlfriend filed a restraining order against him after he assaulted and threatened her with a gun. He was prohibited from possessing firearms after that, but he did not adhere to the order and proceeded to open fire in public five times within two months. Rahimi is currently in prison, but is contesting the law that revoked his right to carry in the first place. 

Rahimi’s multiple crimes seem to make it clear that individuals with a criminal domestic abuse record should not have access to firearms, but does this logic fit if the Supreme Court depends exclusively on legal precedent from the 18th century? When the 2nd Amendment was conceived, domestic abuse was not regarded with the same gravity it is today. If the Founding Fathers could have foreseen that in a world with guns, a woman is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes, would their opinions have changed? These unanswerable questions may determine the fate of future gun control for the nation. 

The Supreme Court’s decision can be expected roughly around June of 2024, although at the latest, it could be posted in early October. The way that the judges interpret the ruling of the handgun case in Rahimi will likely provide a precedent for several future laws, either loosening or tightening gun restrictions in the country. Either way, this stands to be a landmark case for domestic abuse victims, gun owners, and America as a whole. 

This article was edited by Matthew Quirindongo and Abigail D’Angelo