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.”