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Updated Jun 21, 2024, 4:15pm EDT
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US Supreme Court upholds firearms restrictions for domestic abusers in setback for gun rights activists

Insights from The New York Times, The Trace, and Slate

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 A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., June 17, 2024.
Evelyn Hockstein/REUTERS
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People who are subject to domestic violence protective orders can legally be barred from owning guns, the US Supreme Court ruled on Friday. In an 8-1 decision that saw Justice Clarence Thomas dissent, the Court ruled that the Constitution does not prohibit states from restricting dangerous individuals from owning firearms.

The decision in United States vs. Rahimi overturned a ruling by the conservative US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which found that a federal law meant to protect victims of domestic abuse was unconstitutional. The decision is the first to define the bounds of a historic 2022 ruling that expanded the rights of gun owners.

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Decision will make it easier for gun restrictions to stand

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Sources:  
The New York Times, Slate

The decision “will make it much easier for gun laws to survive legal challenge,” law professor Adam Winkler said, by sending a signal to lower courts that the Supreme Court’s majority “is not completely hostile to gun laws.” This marks the high court’s first major firearms ruling since 2008 that didn’t favor gun rights advocates, a huge win for the common-sense gun legislation contingent. That also means SCOTUS will have to take another look at a spate of lower-court decisions that used the landmark 2022 ruling, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, to strike down gun regulations, which could lead to some of those restrictions being allowed to stand.

Ruling restricts the sweeping anti-regulation effects of Bruen

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, The Trace

The Rahimi ruling clarified the new test set up by Bruen, which found gun laws must have a historical analogue to be constitutional. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said some courts “misunderstood the methodology of our recent Second Amendment cases,” which “were not meant to suggest a law trapped in amber.” Rahimi makes it clear that gun laws must be consistent with the principles of historical regulations, not matched to an exact law. “There’s going to be more breathing room than some people thought Bruen allowed,” one constitutional law professor told The Trace.

Court gives gun-rights advocates reason for cautious optimism

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Sources:  
CNN, Bloomberg

The ruling was lauded by advocates for domestic violence survivors and gun-safety activists, though some said the fact that justices heard this case in the first place showed how radical the court had become. “Today’s ruling only really solidifies that we have more work to do,” said Ruth Glenn, the president of Survivor Justice Action, a domestic violence advocacy group. While the court’s conservatives are still extreme, they’re “pulling back from the brink of absurdity” at least on guns, wrote Bloomberg opinion columnist Noah Feldman. It comes as more legally fraught cases, such as whether Congress can prohibit felons and drug offenders from possessing firearms, remain on the horizon.

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