The U.S. v Rahimi Supreme Court case jeopardizes a vital form of prevention against sexual violence and domestic abuse. This ruling may put the lives of domestic and sexual violence survivors at risk. Zackey Rahimi, the defendant, was served a protective order for domestic abuse due to assaulting his ex-girlfriend. This restraining order stripped him of the right to possess firearms. He knowingly violated this provision by owning several firearms. In court, Rahimi’s lawyer argued that the firearm provision violated his Second Amendment rights. The lower courts and the Fifth Circuit agreed and ruled in his favor”. In February of 2023, a three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit decided that the federal prohibition of gun possession for people subject to domestic violence protective orders is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. This decision is very dangerous and will put the lives of domestic and sexual violence survivors at risk nationwide.
In passing this decision, the court struck down a 30-year federal law that prohibits those under a domestic violence protective order from possessing firearms within the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. On August 22nd, 2023 California Governor Gavin Newsom filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court which, “defends the federal government’s ability to enact commonsense gun safety laws, and builds on California’s longstanding efforts to reduce gun violence, protect victims and survivors, and save lives”. The U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiff for the upcoming case, has agreed to review the Fifth Circuit’s decision, giving a chance for the dangerous ruling in the Fifth Circuit for Rahimi to be overturned.
It is vital that the Supreme Court overturn the Fifth Circuit ruling in order to prevention sexual violence and domestic abuse. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, “When a male abuser has access to a firearm, the risk he will shoot and kill a female partner increases by 1,000%. The Fifth Circuit took away this lifesaving protection, putting millions of victims, their families, and their communities in danger. The bottom line: guns don’t belong in the hands of abusers”. Guns should not be possessed by those with domestic violence protective orders, as “Over the past 10 years, the number of women murdered by an intimate partner with a firearm in Texas has nearly doubled. We fear for the many survivors at a terrifyingly high risk of being killed by a violent abuser with a firearm”. The presence of a firearm significantly increases the lethality of domestic violence situations. Firearms are highly lethal weapons and can cause fatal injuries with minimal effort.
Not only does the possession of a firearm increase the lethality of violent abuse, it also limits pathways for survivors to escape. Survivors of abuse may already face significant challenges when trying to leave an abusive relationship. The presence of a firearm adds another layer of difficulty, as the survivor may fear for their safety during and after leaving. Woodson Bradley, a domestic abuse survivor, stated that “guns become leverage, a form of power. It doesn’t have to be flashed in your face or used to get you to concede. An abuser just needs to glance at it”. The presence of a firearm can be used as a tool to intimidate, threaten, and manipulate survivors into staying in the relationship. A survivor, Jeanee Muhammad, who tried to leave her boyfriend stated in an interview: “‘The most dangerous time is when you try to leave someone’. Even when he wasn’t handling the gun, he’d point his fingers at her and say ‘bam bam’”. The knowledge that an abusive partner has access to a firearm can deter survivors from seeking help or leaving the situation altogether. Abusive partners’ access to a firearm contributes to imbalance and abuse of power, thus increasing and intensifying sexual violence and domestic abuse.
Addressing the threat of firearms is crucial in domestic and sexual violence cases. Implementing policies that restrict firearm access for individuals with a history of domestic violence, as well as providing support and resources for survivors to safely escape abusive situations, are essential steps in promoting safety and saving lives. The Sexual Violence Prevention Association (SVPA) has joined the fight to protect survivors by signing two amicus briefs, led by Brady United and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC). Our voice, joined by many other organizations dedicated to domestic violence and gun violence, will reach the Supreme Court to share the significant impact of their pending decision.
Our Founder and CEO, Omny Miranda Martone and our Legal Director, Bailey Hoffeditz attended a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court while they heard oral arguments for U.S. v Rahimi. People and organizations from around the country urge the Supreme Court to uphold vital gun control measures to prevent sexual and domestic violence.
Did a court order help protect you from an abuser who had guns? Were you threatened or harmed by an abuser with a gun? Click here to get help and/or take action!