Supreme Court will consider whether to uphold protections for survivors of domestic violence
Washington, November 7, 2023
Tags: Working for Women
Opinion by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), opinion contributors
Americans will bear witness to that today as the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments in United States v. Rahimi. The defendant, Zackey Rahimi, was subject to a restraining order after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, which meant, under federal law, that he was prohibited from possessing a firearm. Rahimi then violated that restraining order by allegedly threatening to shoot another woman and discharging firearms in public on five separate occasions. After a law enforcement search, Rahimi admitted to having a rifle and pistol, leading to him being charged and convicted of unlawful firearm possession.
Earlier this year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Rahimi’s favor to possess a firearm.
If the Rahimi decision from the 5th Circuit is upheld, it would invalidate the 1994 federal law that prohibits people under domestic violence orders from possessing firearms. Studies show this would lead to increased violence against survivors of domestic violence. Stopping people like Rahimi from possessing firearms keeps every community safer.
20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner every day in the United States. Firearms are the most common weapons used in domestic violence homicides, with female intimate partners more likely to be murdered with a gun than by all other means combined. Too often, the crisis of gun violence in our country leads to fatal domestic violence situations. An average of 70 women in America are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month and the mere presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. These are not mere statistics, but mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters snatched from our communities each day. And these tragic deaths are preventable.
Protecting victims of domestic violence should be something we all support.
This case is just one of the many disturbing decisions on gun violence as the result of another Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. This case struck down New York’s conceal carry permit law and undermines the authority of states to responsibly regulate the use of firearms. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of lawsuits filed that all attack basic commonsense laws, all inspired by the ruling in Bruen.
When it was announced that the Supreme Court was going to hear oral arguments on the Rahimi case, we led amicus briefs with 171 members of the House of Representatives and Senate which repudiates the 5th Circuit’s decision in Rahimi and calls on the Supreme Court to set a clear standard that allows for Congress to pass laws that keep the American people safe.
It is heartbreaking to think of the fear and harm that would come as a result of the Supreme Court allowing domestic abusers to have access to firearms. It is troubling that the 5th Circuit’s decision has even allowed this possibility.
The 5th Circuit’s dangerous ruling must be overturned. Our laws should provide the necessary protections to those who need it most — not empower domestic abusers. If the 5th Circuit’s decision is upheld by the Supreme Court, then the only way to reverse this ruling would be to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Over 80 percent of Americans favor a federal law that bans domestic abusers from possessing a firearm. Seventy eight percent of gun owners support laws that prohibit those subject to a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a firearm. The American people support keeping survivors of domestic violence safe from their abusers. This aligns with a centuries old tradition of legislatures regulating firearm access for those posing the greatest risk of danger, which has historically been deemed consistent with the Second Amendment.
United States v. Rahimi could have deadly implications for individuals in domestic violence situations, particularly for women. As members of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, we urge the Supreme Court to reject this extreme ruling and uphold protections for survivors of domestic violence. Prohibiting domestic abusers from access to firearms will save lives and is constitutional.
It is important that all Americans know what is at stake with this case and for them to make clear that they expect their elected officials to side with domestic abuse survivors — not domestic abusers.
Mike Thompson represents the 4th District of California, Debbie Dingell represents the 6th District of Michigan and Gwen Moore represents Wisconsin’s 4th District.