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Supreme Court Affirms That Even ‘Reckless’ Domestic Abusers Should Lose Gun Rights

The Supreme Court ruled in a decision announced Monday that a domestic violence assault committed “recklessly” qualifies as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, and therefore triggers the federal ban on gun ownership. “A person who assaults another recklessly ‘use[s]’ force, no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan, who authored the majority opinion. She was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito.  The case, Voisine v. United States, was brought by two men who lost their right to own or buy guns after being convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors in the state of Maine. Under the Lautenberg Amendment, which Congress passed in 1996, individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors can’t legally own or buy guns. But lawyers for the two men argued that their crimes didn’t qualify for the federal gun ban because their assaults were committed “recklessly,” as opposed to knowingly or intentionally.  It’s important to note that reckless acts don’t mean accidental. Under Maine law, a person acts recklessly when he or she “consciously disregards a risk that the person’s conduct will cause such a result.” The court rejected arguments that the gun ban only applies to intentional acts of abuse. “Then, as now, a significant majority of jurisdictions—34 States plus the District of Columbia—defined such misdemeanor offenses to include the reckless infliction of bodily harm,” Kagan wrote. “In targeting those laws, Congress thus must have known it was sweeping in some persons who had engaged in reckless conduct.” Reckless conduct was intended to be covered under the Lautenberg Amendment, which was enacted to bar domestic abusers convicted of “garden-variety assault or battery misdemeanors” from owning guns, she added.  The case was followed closely by anti-gun violence organizations, which warned that it could put women’s lives at stake. READ MORE

SPECIAL NOTE:

BWJP attorneys Kristine Lizdas and Sandra Murphy contributed to an amicus brief for this case.

TAGS: #Firearms

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