Supreme Court Limits Second Amendment Rights: Landmark Ruling on Government's Authority to Disarm

  • by:
  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 06/21/2024
The Supreme Court has ruled that Second Amendment rights are not absolute, meaning the government can temporarily disarm someone if they have been found to be dangerous. The 8-1 ruling involved Zackey Rahimi, a Texan who was under a domestic violence restraining order, which under federal law is a bar to possessing a gun. Rahimi had challenged that federal law, saying it ran afoul of his Second Amendment right. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, said the federal law was consistent with the country’s tradition of disarming those who have been ruled to be a danger to society, ruling against Rahimi’s challenge.

The decision is a major victory for gun-control advocates, giving them new legal ground to defend federal and state laws that restrict firearm ownership. It also pumps the brakes on the court’s landmark 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which said in order to survive constitutional scrutiny, gun laws must be consistent with what the founders would have countenanced.

Chief Justice Roberts said the Bruen decision doesn’t mean there has to be an exact analog, or “historical twin,” but rather laws today must be true to the principles of the authors of the Second Amendment. For example, he cited bans on felons and mentally ill possessing guns.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the Bruen decision, dissented from Friday’s ruling, saying there was no tradition of disarming people who faced domestic violence restraining orders, so the current law cannot survive the history test. Both gun-rights groups and gun-control activists had been eyeing the case looking for clarity in the wake of the 2022 Bruen ruling.

Bruen ignited a wave of legislation and litigation, with Democrat-led states rushing to pass new restrictions on concealed carry, declaring large parts of their public property “sensitive” locations where firearms should be banned. Gun-rights groups also went after laws barring types of weapons that can be sold and other restrictions such as time limits on how many firearms can be bought. Inmates began to challenge their convictions as prohibited people.

Rahimi’s case is the second major gun ruling out of the Supreme Court this year.Earlier this month, the justices overturned a 2018 decision by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to redefine bump stocks as machine guns. The court, in a 6-3 ruling with Justice Thomas writing the lead opinion, said the definition Congress wrote into the law for what is a prohibited automatic weapon doesn’t match bump stocks. The majority said Congress could attempt to ban them, but it can’t be done by unilateral executive decision to reinterpret the definitions.

Rahimi had what prosecutors called a series of reckless shootings, but didn’t have a conviction. After a tense encounter with an ex-girlfriend, he was slapped with a protective order in Texas. Under federal law, that means he is barred from possessing a gun. After the Bruen ruling the appeals court reversed itself, saying it couldn’t find any analogy in the founders’ history to a ban on guns by those facing protective orders.


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