FederalGunsJudicialAppeals Court Rules Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Cannot Prohibit Firearm Possession

The court wrote its opinion wasn’t based on whether preventing those under protective orders from having guns is a laudable policy.
February 3, 2023
A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a federal law prohibiting individuals subject to domestic violence-related restraining orders from possessing firearms is unconstitutional, citing recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent on how the Second Amendment is applied.

The case contains a shocking background, describing how during a period between 2020 and 2021, appellant Zackey Rahimi committed five shootings in the Arlington area, including shooting at a county constable’s patrol vehicle.

After being identified as a suspect in the shootings, a search of Rahimi’s home yielded two firearms. As the subject of a state protective order for domestic violence, Raimi was charged with felony possession of a firearm.

As part of the 1968 Federal Gun Control Act, those subject to restraining orders for acts of domestic violence are prohibited from possessing firearms.

Rahimi’s argument did not prevail before the first appeals court panel. But in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court landmark Second Amendment case New York State Rifle and Pistol Assoc. v Bruen, a new panel reviewed the case and ruled in favor of Rahimi.

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Citing the Bruen decision, the unanimous panel explained the government has the burden to prove a firearm regulation falls within the historic tradition that delimits the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms.

The court further explained that the federal government failed to demonstrate that proof in its arguments, and added how new precedent requires historical tradition to overrule consideration of modern policy goals.

“Doubtless, [the overturned law] embodies salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society,” the court’s ruling states. “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.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement critical of the decision and argued that the court erred in its 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 is quoted saying. “Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent, or of the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, that statute is constitutional.”

According to Garland, the Department of Justice will further appeal the decision.


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Matt Stringer

Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy. He graduated from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.