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SCOTUS to look at law barring accused domestic abusers from buying guns

<i>SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Supporters of gun control and firearm safety measures hold a protest rally outside the US Supreme Court in December 2019.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Supporters of gun control and firearm safety measures hold a protest rally outside the US Supreme Court in December 2019.

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

(CNN) — As the Supreme Court justices race to finish up the current term, they will meet behind closed doors on Thursday to consider whether they should add a blockbuster Second Amendment case to the docket for next term.

The focus is a federal law that bars an individual subject to a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a firearm.

It has only been a year since the Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion that marked the broadest expansion of gun rights in a decade. Since then, lower courts have been reconsidering thousands of firearm restrictions.

In the case at hand, the conservative-leaning 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals cited the Supreme Court’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen decision in holding the domestic violence-related gun law unconstitutional, a move that critics say will make it easier for alleged abusers to obtain firearms.

Under ordinary circumstances, once the Supreme Court releases a major opinion, they reject immediate follow-on cases, so that the issue can percolate in the lower courts. The Biden administration, however, is moving with a degree of urgency, asking the justices to step in immediately.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the court that the decision “threatens grave harms for victims of domestic violence.”

Supporters of gun regulations and anti-domestic violence groups have also joined together asking the justices to step in, arguing that the lower court failed to appreciate the significance of “modern efforts to grapple with domestic violence.”

In 2019, nearly two-thirds of domestic homicides in the United States were committed with a gun, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. On average, 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner and up to 20% of violent deaths of intimate partners also involve deaths of children or other family members, the court brief says. In addition, as things stand, nearly half the states extended similar laws to reach dating partners, and 12 states include temporary restraining orders.

Lawyers for Zackey Rahimi, the man who was prosecuted under the law in 2020 after a violent altercation with his girlfriend, urged the justices to let the lower court opinion stand.

“Bruen is less than a year old,” Rahimi’s lawyer J. Matthew Wright told the justices in court papers. Lower courts are “just beginning to grapple” with the aftereffects of the decision so the Supreme Court should stay out for now, he added.

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