A federal court voted unanimously on Thursday to allow domestic abusers to possess firearms, even if someone filed a restraining order against them.
Striking down federal law, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of an alleged domestic abuser who was charged with illegally possessing a firearm. In February 2020, after allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend, the defendant had entered a civil protective order that prevented him from possessing a firearm. But since entering the agreement, he had been involved in five shootings, including shooting into the house of someone he sold narcotics to, shooting at the driver of a car in an accident he was involved in, and shooting multiple shots in the air after his friend’s credit card was declined at a Whataburger restaurant.
In an opinion teeming with fraught and puzzling logic, the court concludes that a “ban on possession of firearms is an ‘outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted.’” In other words, as law professor Jacob Charles puts it, because the Founding Fathers apparently didn’t care about domestic violence, neither should our modern laws.
The ruling is not only legally spurious and morally shocking but also incredibly dangerous. Studies have shown that nearly 70 percent of all mass shootings are related to domestic violence. In a country where mass shootings show no sign of slowing down, a loosening of commonsense gun laws bodes horrifyingly.
Moreover, around 4.5 million women in the United States have been threatened with a gun, and nearly one million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. A woman is five times more likely to be murdered when her abuser has access to a gun.
“This extreme and dangerous ruling is a death sentence for women and families as domestic violence is far too often a precursor to gun violence,” said Shannon Watts, founder of anti-gun violence advocacy group Moms Demand Action. “When someone is able to secure a restraining order, we must do everything possible to keep them and their families safe—not empower the abuser with easy access to firearms.”
The case follows last year’s controversial Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol v. Bruen, where the court issued an opinion describing a new originalist standard to be applied to gun regulation cases. If the law at hand appears to have no historical connection to the years the Second and Fourteenth Amendments were ratified—1791 and 1868, respectively—then the law can be deemed unconstitutional.
As in, our society’s adapted values and ideals, let alone its technological developments, don’t matter; all that matters is what a slaveholding man who didn’t even know what a telephone was might have believed.
Bear in mind that “wife beating” was only made illegal in all states in 1920, the same year women got the right to vote.
Indeed, brutish conservative politics leads us to reject modernity and embrace tradition—regressing the nation to a time of enabling and participating in senseless violence; suppressing the teaching of the struggles Black people face; and viciously controlling the bodies of women, girls, and gender minorities.