DOJ seeks fast-track Supreme Court review of ruling against gun ban for people under domestic violence ban


The Justice Department on Friday asked the Supreme Court to expedite the case. recent decision of the Court of Appeal which declared unconstitutional a federal law banning the possession of guns by persons under the Domestic Violence Ban.

“Having a gun in a home where a domestic abuser lives increases the risk of homicide by a factor of six,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote Friday in her petition, urging the Supreme Court to decide before the summer break whether to hear the case.

5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in February that the 1996 law was unconstitutional, and while the ruling only applies to Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, defenders are worried this will have wide implications, including that it will prevent victims from reporting it.

The district court cited a landmark Second Amendment ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority last year that set out a new test that lower courts can use to analyze the constitutionality of a gun law.

On Friday, Prelogar told the Supreme Court that the 5th Circuit’s reasoning was wrong and that the High Court should hear the case “so it can correct Bruen’s misinterpretation by the Fifth Circuit,” meaning Supreme Court ruling last summer.

Part of the test, according to a Supreme Court majority in June, was whether the gun restriction paralleled the rules in place at the time the Constitution was drafted.

The 5th District, in its opinion on limiting the use of weapons for domestic violence earlier this year, said the ban on alleged rapists had no such historical parallel and was therefore unconstitutional.

If “the 5th Circuit approach were universally applied,” Prelogar wrote, “few modern laws would stand up to judicial scrutiny; After all, most modern gun regulations differ from their historical predecessors in at least some respects.”

At the time of the district court’s decision, Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that Congress defined the gun ban law “nearly 30 years ago” and announced the department’s plan to appeal the decision.

“Whether analyzed through the prism of Supreme Court precedent or the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, this statute is constitutional. Accordingly, the Department will seek further review of the contrary decision of the Fifth Circuit,” he said.

Weapons are used in nearly two-thirds of intimate partner murders, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. A 2021 research found that most mass shootings are also related to domestic violence.

While some states subject to the appellate court have similar restrictions on state law, the new ruling undermines a critical tool that survivors must protect from their abusers. If the logic of the 5th Circuit were adopted by the US Supreme Court across the country, the consequences would be devastating, advocates say.

“People find out that their abuser still has a weapon. They will continue to live in absolute, disgusting fear,” said Heather Bellino, CEO of the Texas Advocacy Project, which works with victims of domestic violence. “They will be afraid to get a protection order because now these weapons will not disappear.”