SCOTUS Will Decide Whether to Give Domestic Violence Abusers Access to Guns

Editor’s note: On Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 9:15 a.m. ET, gun safety and domestic violence prevention advocates will rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of oral arguments in United States v. Rahimi. Oral arguments will begin at 10 a.m.

The Rahimi decision will have life or death consequences for those facing domestic violence.

Students participate in a walkout to end gun violence and to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2, 2023 in New York City. (Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider United States v. Rahimi, a case in which the justices could strike down a longstanding, life-saving federal law that prohibits people subject to domestic violence protective orders from possessing firearms.

This common-sense law has broad, overwhelming public support—and with good reason. Firearms are the most common weapons used in domestic violence homicides, with an average of 70 women in the United States shot and killed by an intimate partner each month. The mere presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. Guns are also now the leading cause of death for children in our nation.

Those alarming statistics reflect the carnage when courts can prohibit people subject to domestic violence protective orders from possessing guns. Without question, removing that prohibition will result in even more women and children being injured and killed.

Imagine living with a violent, controlling partner, not knowing what you might face each time you enter your home. Imagine trying to protect yourself and your child in that situation, hang onto your job, and figure out how to get help. Imagine you reach out to a domestic violence program or the police get involved, eventually get legal representation and take the difficult step of showing up for a court proceeding that results in a domestic violence protective order requiring your abuser to stay away. And then imagine that they can nonetheless walk into a gun shop and purchase a firearm. How safe would you and your child be?

This could be the reality for thousands of women if the Supreme Court rules for Rahimi in the upcoming case. This case should be an easy one, the ruling unanimous. Jackey Rahimi should never have been allowed to have a gun. He has a history of armed violence toward multiple girlfriends, including threatening to kill one of them. A domestic violence protective order was issued that prohibited him from owning firearms. And still, while under that protective order, he fired his gun time and again, including shooting at a government official’s car, at an accident scene, and at a fast-food restaurant. Rahimi was then arrested, and later convicted of possessing a firearm while subject to a domestic violence protective order.

The mere presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed

Now, the Supreme Court is hearing United States v. Rahimi because a lower court ruled that the Second Amendment no longer allows Congress to prohibit people from possessing a firearm while they are subject to a domestic violence order. That prohibition is in question because last year, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court ruled 6–3 to strike down New York’s century-old gun control law. In doing so, the Court adopted an entirely new framework for evaluating challenges to the Constitution’s Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, based on what the laws said more than 200 years ago. Now that new legal framework will be applied here.

The Supreme Court must allow Congress to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic violence abusers. The justices must recognize that this decision will have life and death consequences, for adults and children facing domestic violence and for our communities.

The justices must disarm domestic violence and protect survivors. The lives of women, the lives of children, the safety of our communities hangs in the balance.

Learn more and help Futures Without Violence speak out on the Rahimi case.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Esta Soler is founder and president of Futures Without Violence.