Supreme Court seems likely to preserve gun law that protects domestic violence victims

The Supreme Court seemed likely Tuesday to preserve a federal law that prohibits people under domestic violence restraining orders from having guns.

In their first guns case since last year’s expansion of gun rights, the justices suggested that they will reverse a ruling from an appeals court in New Orleans that struck down the 1994 ban on firearms for people under court order to stay away from their spouses or partners.

Liberal and conservative justices sounded persuaded by arguments from the Biden administration's top Supreme Court lawyer that the prohibition is in line with the longstanding practice of disarming dangerous people.

The court’s decision in the new case could have widespread ripple effects, including in the high-profile prosecution of Hunter Biden. The president’s son has been charged with buying a firearm while he was addicted to drugs, but his lawyers have indicated they will challenge the indictment.

The case before the court involves Zackey Rahimi, who lived near Fort Worth, Texas. Rahimi hit his girlfriend during an argument in a parking lot and then fired a gun at a witness in December 2019, according to court papers. Later, Rahimi called the girlfriend and threatened to shoot her if she told anyone about the assault, the Justice Department wrote in its Supreme Court brief.

The girlfriend obtained a protective order against him in Tarrant County in February 2020.

Eleven months later, Rahimi was a suspect in additional shootings when police searched his apartment and found guns. He eventually pleaded guilty to violating federal law. The appeals court overturned that conviction when it struck down the law. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the Biden administration's appeal.

Rahimi remains jailed in Texas, where he faces other criminal charges. In a letter he wrote from jail last summer, after the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case, Rahimi said he would "stay away from all firearms and weapons" once he's released. The New York Times first reported the existence of the letter.

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Guns were used in 57% of killings of spouses, intimate partners, children or relatives in 2020, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seventy women a month, on average, are shot and killed by intimate partners, according to the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

A decision in U.S. v. Rahimi, 22-915, is expected by early summer.


Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.