SCOTUS Domestic Violence Ruling Could Set Dangerous Precedent

After a string of five shootings from December 2020 to January 2021, a Texas state court barred Zackey Rahimi from possessing a firearm after he was found to have abused his girlfriend and harassed her child. The justification for the court’s decision to prohibit his access to firearms should be obvious. Yet the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that ruling was a direct breach of his right to bear and keep firearms. This is alarming, considering a CDC study found that nearly half of the homicides against female victims are committed by “current or formal male intimate partners,” and according to “access to a gun makes it five times more likely that a woman will die at the hands of a domestic abuser.”

 This case is now being deliberated in the Supreme Court, and a potentially dangerous precedent could be set allowing domestic abusers to keep their guns. All of this results from the decision last year in the Supreme Court ruling New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, in which the decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that “courts should uphold gun restrictions only if there is a tradition of such regulation in U.S. history.” Under this framework, Rahimi has a legitimate argument against the seizure of his guns because domestic abuse was not considered a crime until 1871. Similar court cases have arisen, with laws prohibiting individuals from owning a gun being struck down and a law temporarily put into place that allows firearms in places of worship. 

Judges themselves have commented on the confusion caused by the Bruen ruling, with Judge Holly Brady, Chief US District judge, complaining that “the Supreme Court has created mountains of work for district courts that must now deal with Bruen-related arguments in which a firearm was found.” 

Judge Robert Miller, senior US district judge, furthered this idea, believing that the founding fathers were being insulted in believing that they were so “short-sighted as to forbid the people … from regulating guns in new ways.”  

These statements and cases illustrate the issue with the Bruen ruling: courts should not be required to go back to the early 1700s to make decisions today. Following this logic, segregation would still exist, and women would not have the right to vote. It is plain wrong to act like the country was a perfect place when it was first founded in 1776. The Constitution, despite its oft-romanticized passage, is far from a perfect and concrete framework of how this country should be run in 2023. Lawmakers can and should amend the Constitution if necessary to keep pace with a constantly evolving society. If modern medicine, social norms and technology did not exist at the time our founding fathers wrote these laws, then why must we follow the laws exactly as they wrote them?Fortunately, a number of SCOTUS judges have voiced their dissent to allowing domestic abusers to have access to firearms. However, it is likely far from the last case to be argued in front of the Court under the precedence of Bruen. While it is improbable they will do so, the best way to prevent future dangers would be to overturn the Bruen case and set a new precedent regarding the Second Amendment.