Appeals Court Rules Gun Law Unconstitutional

Appeals Court
Man holds a gun with others on display | Image by Lutsenko_Oleksandr/Shutterstock

On Thursday, a federal appeals court ruled that a law banning those with domestic violence-related restraining orders from owning guns was unconstitutional.

The case in question involves Zackey Rahimi, a suspect in five shootings in the Arlington area in December 2020 and January 2021. Police searched Rahimi’s house and found multiple firearms, which were illegal under federal law as he was subject to a state protective order for domestic violence from February 2020.

Rahimi was charged with felony possession of a firearm.

He was indicted and later pleaded guilty. He was sentenced in September 2021 to more than six years in prison.

Rahimi challenged the indictment on the grounds that the 1968 Federal Gun Control Act, which prohibited those subjected to restraining orders for acts of domestic violence from owning firearms, was unconstitutional.

A federal appeals court previously ruled against Rahimi, but the recently decided Supreme Court case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen set a new precedent. Consequently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit withdrew its decision, vacated Rahimi’s conviction, and ruled the federal law was unconstitutional.

“Doubtless, [the overturned law] embodies salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society,” the court said in its ruling, as reported by The Texan. “Weighing those policy goals’ merits through the sort of means-end scrutiny our prior precedent indulged, we previously concluded that the societal benefits … outweighed its burden on Rahimi’s Second Amendment rights.”

Citing Drummond v. Robinson Township, a Second Amendment case decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021, the Fifth Circuit determined that the Federal Gun Control Act’s “ban on possession of firearms is an ‘outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted.'”

The court observed that the law “works an absolute deprivation of the right, not only publicly to carry, but to possess any firearm, upon entry of a sufficient protective order.”

The ruling has resulted in strong reactions.

Left-wing politicians such as Gavin Newsom, governor of California, disagreed with the court’s decision.

“This is what the ultra-conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court wants. It’s happening, and it’s happening right now,” said Newsom in a statement. “Wake up America — this assault on our safety will only accelerate.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland likewise released a statement critical of the decision.

“Nearly 30 years ago, Congress determined that a person who is subject to a court order that restrains him or her from threatening an intimate partner or child cannot lawfully possess a firearm,” Garland wrote. “Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent, or of the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, that statute is constitutional. Accordingly, the Department will seek further review of the Fifth Circuit’s contrary decision.”

Texas Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), meanwhile, celebrated the decision.

“Whether you like the outcome or not – the Constitution prevents government interference with unpopular actions,” wrote Cain on Twitter. “This is a victory for the constitution!”

Chuck Michel, the president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said that laws like the one struck down on Thursday are too broad and should account for details in each individual case. He used an example of someone who reportedly had his gun rights stripped due to a restraining order issued for pointing a security camera toward his neighbor’s property.

“They lost their gun rights,” Michel said, according to Politico. “When they do a blanket prohibition without considering individualized circumstances, they shoot the dogs with the wolves.”

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  1. Bret

    The constitution says shall not be infringed. This SHOULD stop any government interference of any kind.

  2. Bill

    The standards for issuing a restraining order are too vague. In my 20s a friend of mine got one issued against him by a spiteful ex girlfriend whom he had not seen in 14 months. She claimed that the moment he was released from the Denton County Jail where he had been sitting over a probation violation he came to her house and threatened her and her family and everyone in the family lined up to say the samething. Unbeknownst to the people making that claim he was sent to the Dallas County Jail to sit out some tickets for about 10 days after he was released from the Denton County Jail and was in custody at the time they claimed he made the threats. My friend has never threatened anyone much less someone he once dated and had practically forgotten about. He proved in court that he had been in custody and made no threats but the judge issued a restraining order anyway just because the girl and her family seemed so sincere about their hostility towards my friend and acknowledged at the same time that they were lying. That restraining order stood permanently until the ex-girlfriend passed away from cancer several years later.

  3. gypsy

    There is always two sides to a story, liberals would like to go right by the due process as in DC patriots. Still no justice.

  4. pat

    Sounds like a nice guy, suspected in 5 shootings and protective order for domestic violence with multiple guns. Up standing citizen that everyone would want as a neighbor until he kills someone. Get’s give him is guns back.

    • James

      It has nothing to do with that and everything to do with Due Process. The ability to strip people of their rights without Due Process violates everything the Constitution and our nation stands for. If there was enough evidence to support a restraining order, then there shoukd have been charges pressed and he should have been in jail. Not out running around. Never mine that a restraining order has never actually protected anyone. It certainly didn’t stop him from acting a fool, did it?

      • T N Hall

        In most cases a restraining order and gun confiscation would not stop a man from harming or killing someone. There are many weapons he could use including his bare hands.

  5. Lanie

    Heaven forbid we try to save people’s lives from being shot.

    • James

      Nope. Not interested. Nothing is more important than our rights, and guess what? That restraining order not only violated the Constitution (stripping rights without due process) but it didn’t stop him from having guns and it didn’t stop him from acting a fool and shooting at others. In no way does it actually “protect” anyone – and never has a restraining order had that effect. Your defense is YOUR responsibility. You have the right to own and carry. Instead of trying to strip other people’s rights away to make yourself feel better, maybe you should take your responsibility seriously and exercise your rights so you can defend yourself should the need arise.

  6. Jennifer Edwards RN

    I’m a major gun rights person and I own firearms, BUT this is NOT a win for gun rights!!! This is a loss!!! Now every lunatic and domestic abuser will be killing people! I am also a psychiatric RN and while I don’t believe that ALL pstchiatric patients should be prohibited from owning firearms, I believe that their Psychiatrists should have the right to say if they are safe or not! Let’s use common sense here people…you are opening pandoras box with this one!!!

    • Bill

      I don’t recall a piece of paper ever stopping a murder if someone is intent on killing another person.

  7. Ed

    So what about the situation where as a person was convicted with a felony drug charge without violence

    • Bill

      There’s no reason for a non-violent felon to have their firearms rights taken away. As soon as they are done with their sentence and or parole or probation they need to have their rights restored.

  8. Joe ureneck

    A very good decision.

    Unlike the underlying case in this instance most restraining orders involve no guns nor any violence whatsoever. Not surprising since the enabling act, the Violence Against Women Act, for such orders contains no explanation of what constitutes violence. ROs are thus used to settle personal scores or to get an edge in divorce/separation cases. Personal safety from guns is not an issue. The right to own a gun should not be taken away.

  9. Tim

    I think also it should only be done on individual basis. Gun law that take away guns from.law abiding citizens so only criminals can have them is wrong.. if criminals cared about the law they would be braking law in the first place

  10. J J

    You loss your rights to have a gun if you are a threat to to other. Look at his record. This guy is awful and it’s just a matter of time he will kill or hurt someone.

  11. Anonymous

    Dallas Express reporting is biased trash.

    • fed up with Dallas County



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