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Supreme Court Reaffirms Ban on Gun Ownership for Domestic Abusers in Landmark Ruling

In a decisive 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court upheld a pivotal federal law that prohibits individuals under domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms. This ruling, which came on Friday, is seen as a significant affirmation of the court’s stance that public safety can coexist with the Second Amendment rights expanded two years ago.

Balancing Gun Rights with Historical Precedents

The ruling comes in the wake of the court’s landmark decision two years prior, which for the first time acknowledged the right to bear arms outside the home. This precedent introduced a new criterion for gun control measures, which requires them to align with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. Chief Justice John Roberts, authoring the majority opinion, emphasized that disarming individuals who pose a credible threat aligns with long-standing legal traditions. “Since the founding, our Nation’s firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms,” Roberts wrote.

The Case at the Core of the Ruling

The ruling stemmed from a case involving Zackey Rahimi, a man previously placed under a restraining order after violent incidents involving his girlfriend. Despite the restraining order, Rahimi was involved in multiple shootings and was found in possession of firearms during a police search. His conviction had been overturned by a lower court, which deemed the federal statute unconstitutional under the new standard. The Biden Administration’s Justice Department appealed this decision, leading to the Supreme Court’s review and subsequent ruling.

Dissenting Voices and Judicial Debate

Justice Clarence Thomas stood alone in dissent, arguing that no historical regulation justifies the statute in question and expressing concern that the decision could jeopardize Second Amendment rights more broadly. “Yet, in the interest of ensuring the Government can regulate one subset of society, today’s decision puts at risk the Second Amendment rights of many more,” Thomas stated.

Broad Implications and Observations from the Bench

The ruling not only impacts the specific case of Rahimi but also sets a precedent for how lower courts interpret and apply the Second Amendment. Since the establishment of the new Bruen test, courts have struggled with a variety of firearms provisions, many of which are still pending resolution. Justice Neil Gorsuch, along with other conservative justices such as Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, defended the application of the Bruen test, each offering their observations in separate opinions. Meanwhile, the court’s liberals, including Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, voiced concerns about the challenges lower courts face in applying the new standards.

Wider Community and Political Reactions

The case garnered significant attention from both sides of the gun control debate. Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress and 23 Democratic state attorneys general supported the Biden administration’s stance in written briefs. They were joined by various advocacy groups pushing for stricter gun control measures. On the other side, organizations like the National Association for Gun Rights, the National Rifle Association, and other gun rights advocates backed Rahimi’s challenge, highlighting the deep divisions and high stakes involved in this debate.


The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the federal law banning gun ownership for domestic abusers under restraining orders marks a crucial juncture in the ongoing debate over gun control and Second Amendment rights. It reaffirms the government’s ability to regulate firearms in the interest of public safety while also respecting the constitutional rights of individuals. This balance between public safety and individual rights will likely continue to shape the landscape of American gun law for years to come, as the nation grapples with the complexities of gun violence and legal governance.