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A Victory for Survivors: Supreme Court Upholds Federal Domestic Violence Protection Order Firearms Prohibitor 

In good news for survivors of domestic violence, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision today in U.S. v. Rahimi that upholds 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8), a federal law in place since 1994 that says people subject to certain domestic violence protection orders (DVPO) may not have access to a gun while that protection order is active. To date this law has saved countless lives. Thankfully, it will continue to do so. 

               The Rahimi case was brought by Zackey Rahimi who was subject to a qualifying protection order issued in protection of his former girlfriend and mother of his child after he assaulted her, and therefore prohibited him from accessing firearms. Rahimi was later found to be in possession of a firearm after he became a suspect in several shootings in the community. He was ultimately convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8) for being in possession of a firearm while prohibited from doing so. He appealed the conviction on the grounds that the DVPO firearm prohibition was an unconstitutional infringement on his Second Amendment rights, based on a previous case decided by the Supreme Court known as New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. In Bruen, the Court held that a restriction on firearm ownership must be consistent with our “Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation”. Though our nation has a historical tradition of removing firearms from dangerous individuals, the appeals court agreed with Mr. Rahimi and struck down the federal law as unconstitutional. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, issuing a decision making clear that 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8) is indeed constitutional.

               Access to a firearm makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed by her abusive partner. The federal DVPO firearms prohibition has been instrumental in saving lives across the country. Research shows that the most dangerous time for survivors of domestic violence is when they reach out for help or leave. In addition, there is a distinct connection between domestic violence and community violence: more than half of mass shootings between 2014-2019 were domestic violence related and firearms-related fatalities remain the leading causeof line-of-duty law enforcement officer deaths. In recognition of this extreme danger, federal, state, tribal and local courts can limit an adjudicated abuser’s access to firearms, which reduces the potential for lethality in these cases, increasing safety for survivors and communities. 

               The Supreme Court reached a just conclusion by preserving the protections provided by the federal DVPO prohibition. The framework of federal, state, tribal and local laws that have protected survivors of domestic violence and their families from gun violence since 1994 can continue to be implemented—and firearms violence in cases of intimate partner violence will continue to be reduced. 

To understand more about the legal issues related to domestic violence and firearms, BWJP’s National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms and National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith and Credit have extensive resources which you can access at www.preventdvgunviolence.org, including:

Additionally, please see the Resource Guide for Addressing the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Firearms from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

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TAGS: #BWJP Announcements #Firearms #Gender Based Violence #News

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