A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the government cannot stop people who have domestic violence restraining orders against them from owning guns, the latest domino to fall after the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court. The US set new standards for reviewing the nation’s gun laws.
Texas police found a rifle and pistol at the home of a man who had a civil protection order prohibiting him from harassing, stalking or threatening his ex-girlfriend and her son. The order also prohibited him from having weapons.
A federal grand jury indicted the man, who pleaded guilty. He later challenged his accusation, arguing that the law that prevented him from owning a gun was unconstitutional. Initially, a federal appeals court ruled against him, saying it was more important to society to keep guns out of the hands of people accused of domestic violence than it was to protect a person’s individual right to own a gun.
But then last year the US Supreme Court issued a new ruling in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. bruen. That case set new standards for interpreting the Second Amendment by saying the government had to justify gun control laws by showing that they are «consistent with the Nation’s storied tradition of regulating firearms.»
The appeals court withdrew its original decision and on Thursday decided to vacate the man’s conviction, ruling that federal law barring people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from owning guns was unconstitutional.
Specifically, the court ruled that the federal law was an «outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted,» borrowing a quote from Bruen’s decision.
The decision came from a three-judge panel consisting of judges Cory Wilson, James Ho, and Edith Jones. Wilson and Ho were nominated by former Republican President Donald Trump, while Jones was nominated by former Republican President Ronald Reagan.
The US Department of Justice released the following statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Thursday night following the decision: “Nearly 30 years ago, Congress determined that a person who is subject to a court order that prevents you from threatening an intimate partner or child cannot legally possess a firearm. Whether viewed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent or Second Amendment text, history, and lore, that statute is constitutional. Accordingly, the Department will seek further review of the Fifth Circuit’s contrary decision.»
Thursday’s ruling struck down federal law and is not likely to affect similar state laws, including one in California. Still, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, called the judges who issued the ruling «fanatics» who are «bent on a deranged vision of guns for all, leaving the government powerless to protect its people.»
“This is what the ultra-conservative majority of the United States Supreme Court wants. It’s happening, and it’s happening right now,» Newsom said. «Wake up America: This assault on our security will only accelerate.»
Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said the problem with laws like the one struck down by the federal appeals court is that they are too broad and don’t take into account the details of each case.
He gave as an example a client of his whose neighbor filed a restraining order against him because a security camera had been pointed at him on his property.
“They lost their gun rights,” he said. «When they make a blanket ban without considering individualized circumstances, they shoot the dogs with the wolves.»
Thursday’s ruling demonstrates the far-reaching impacts of Bruen’s decision. In California, the decision has prompted lawmakers to revise their concealed-carry permit law.
Newsom on Wednesday backed a bill in the state Legislature that would ban people from carrying concealed weapons in nearly all public places, with the exception of churches and businesses that post a sign saying guns are okay.