Law Barring People with a Domestic Violence Restraining Order from Possessing Firearms Ruled Unconstitutional

February 4, 2023

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. However, this right is not unlimited and has been subject to regulation and restriction. One such restriction is the prohibition of individuals who have a restraining order against them from possessing firearms. The constitutionality of this restriction has recently been called into question by the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which held that it is unconstitutional to prohibit individuals who have a restraining order against them from possessing firearms under the Second Amendment.

The case in question involved a man named Stephen West who had been subject to a protective order in Texas, which prohibited him from possessing firearms. West was later charged with violating this order and was convicted in a federal district court. West appealed his conviction to the Fifth Circuit, arguing that the restriction on his ability to possess firearms violated his Second Amendment rights.

In its decision, the Fifth Circuit noted that the Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. However, the court also acknowledged that this right is not unlimited and can be subject to reasonable regulation. The court then went on to examine the restriction at issue and concluded that it was not a reasonable regulation.

The court noted that the restriction was based on the fact that individuals subject to protective orders are at a higher risk of committing acts of domestic violence. However, the court found that this restriction was not narrowly tailored to address this risk and was not supported by sufficient evidence. The court noted that there are other, less restrictive means of addressing this risk, such as mandatory background checks or the temporary suspension of firearms privileges during the pendency of the protective order.

The court also found that the restriction was overbroad, as it applied to all individuals subject to protective orders, regardless of the nature or severity of the underlying conduct. The court noted that a protective order can be obtained for a wide range of conduct, including relatively minor offenses, and that the restriction applied equally to individuals who had committed serious acts of domestic violence and those who had not.

The court concluded that the restriction was not a reasonable regulation and violated the Second Amendment rights of individuals subject to protective orders. The court, therefore, reversed West’s conviction and held that it was unconstitutional to prohibit individuals who have a restraining order against them from possessing firearms under the Second Amendment.

This decision has been met with both criticism and support. Critics of the decision argue that it undermines the ability of the government to protect victims of domestic violence and that it places victims at a higher risk of harm. Supporters of the decision argue that it is a vindication of the Second Amendment and that it protects the rights of individuals who have been unfairly subjected to restrictive firearms regulations.

Regardless of one’s perspective on this issue, it is clear that the decision of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has important implications for the intersection of gun rights and domestic violence. The decision may be appealed to the Supreme Court and will likely have a significant impact on the future of firearms regulation in the United States.

In conclusion, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision in the case of Stephen West is a significant ruling that calls into question the constitutionality of laws that prohibit individuals who have a restraining order against them from possessing firearms. This decision has important implications for the future of firearms regulation in the United States and will likely have a significant impact on the ongoing debate over gun rights and domestic violence.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, then contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers today. Call us to schedule a consultation with an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney.

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