Federal Appellate Court Strikes Down Domestic Violence Gun Law

January 7, 2024

A federal appellate court made a significant ruling regarding individuals under domestic violence restraining orders and their rights to gun ownership. This ruling stemmed from the U.S. Supreme Court’s revised standards for evaluating the country’s gun laws.

The case involved a man in Texas who, despite being under a civil protective order prohibiting harassment, stalking, or threats toward his former partner and child, was found with a rifle and pistol at his residence. Subsequently, a federal grand jury indicted him, leading to his guilty plea. However, the man challenged his indictment, asserting that the law barring him from possessing firearms was unconstitutional.

Initially, a federal appeals court ruled against him, emphasizing the societal significance of restricting gun access for those accused of domestic violence over an individual’s right to gun ownership. Yet, the landscape changed after the U.S. Supreme Court set forth new criteria in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case. This pivotal ruling mandated that the government justify gun control laws in line with the nation’s historical firearm regulations.

As a result, the appeals court retracted its initial decision and recently vacated the man’s conviction. It declared the federal law banning individuals under domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms as unconstitutional, citing it as an “outlier” inconsistent with historical norms, echoing the sentiments expressed in the Bruen decision.

The panel of three judges, including Cory Wilson, James Ho, and Edith Jones, unanimously delivered this judgment. Notably, Wilson and Ho were appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump, while Jones was nominated by former Republican President Ronald Reagan.

In response, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland expressed the Justice Department’s intent to seek further review, contending that the statute aligns with constitutional parameters established by Supreme Court precedents and the Second Amendment’s text, history, and traditions.

This ruling marks the widespread repercussions of the Bruen decision. In California, it has prompted legislative reforms, including a bill endorsed by Governor Newsom to restrict carrying concealed guns in most public spaces, exempting only churches and businesses with posted permission for firearms.

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