Supreme Court Upholds Firearm Restrictions For Domestic Violence Offenders

In a significant ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld restrictions preventing domestic violence perpetrators from possessing firearms. The decision in United States v. Rahimi saw an 8-1 majority affirming that such regulations are constitutional.

The Court’s majority opinion stated, “When an individual has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another, that individual may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment.” The opinion elaborated that since the nation’s founding, firearm laws have aimed to prevent individuals who pose threats from misusing firearms. Section 922(g)(8), which bars firearm possession by those found to be a threat, aligns with this historical tradition.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her concurring opinion, emphasized the application of the Bruen decision, suggesting that courts should consider whether a firearm regulation is consistent with historical principles rather than seeking precise historical analogues. “The Court’s opinion also clarifies an important methodological point that bears repeating: Rather than asking whether a present-day gun regulation has a precise historical analogue, courts applying Bruen should consider whether the challenged regulation is consistent with the principles that underpin our regulatory tradition,” Sotomayor wrote.

Dissenting, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the government’s justification for restricting firearm possession lacks constitutional basis. He criticized the government’s position, stating, “The Government’s claim that the Court already held the Second Amendment protects only ‘law-abiding, responsible citizens’ is specious at best. No matter how many adjectives the Government swaps out, the fact remains that the Court has never adopted anything akin to the Government’s test.”

In a concurring opinion, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh pointed out that constitutional rights have historically come with exceptions. He referenced Chief Justice Rehnquist, noting, “The Constitution is in some parts ‘obviously not a specifically worded document but one couched in general phraseology.’

For example, the First Amendment provides that ‘Congress shall make no law’ ‘abridging the freedom of speech.’ And the Second Amendment guarantees that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms’ ‘shall not be infringed.’ Read literally, those Amendments might seem to grant absolute protection, but American law has long recognized that constitutional rights generally come with exceptions.”