Clarence Thomas Says Domestic Abusers Should Own Guns

Alex Wong/Getty
Alex Wong/Getty

The Supreme Court on Friday overwhelmingly upheld the constitutionality of a federal ban on gun ownership by those who have been subject to a domestic violence restraining order. The lone dissent came from Justice Clarence Thomas.

“When an individual has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another, that individual may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment,” the majority opinion read. “Since the Founding, the Nation’s firearm laws have included regulations to stop individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms.”

The case before the court involved a Texas drug dealer named Zackey Rahimi, who was hit with a restraining order in 2020 after he assaulted his then-girlfriend in a parking lot. Under the terms of the two-year order, Rahimi, who is now incarcerated, was barred from having any contact with the woman or her family, and couldn’t possess a firearm during that period.

But Rahimi, who ultimately argued that his Second Amendment rights had been violated, ignored the court. According to a previous filing, Rahimi was involved in five subsequent shootings in the Arlington area.

“On December 1, after selling narcotics to an individual, he fired multiple shots into that individual’s residence,” the filing states. “The following day, Rahimi was involved in a car accident. He exited his vehicle, shot at the other driver, and fled the scene. He returned to the scene in a different vehicle and shot at the other driver’s car. On December 22, Rahimi shot at a constable’s vehicle. On January 7, Rahimi fired multiple shots in the air after his friend’s credit card was declined at a Whataburger restaurant.”

Rahimi was indicted, convicted, and sentenced to six years in prison.

Supreme Court Sends Out an Ominous Sign

In February 2023, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Rahimi’s conviction, with Judge Cory T. Wilson, a former Mississippi state legislator known for his virulent anti-gun control views who was elevated to the bench by former President Donald Trump, writing in the ruling, “Could speeders be stripped of their right to keep and bear arms? Political nonconformists? People who do not recycle or drive an electric vehicle?”

“Rahimi, while hardly a model citizen, is nonetheless part of the political community entitled to the Second Amendment’s guarantees, all other things equal,” Wilson opined.

In his dissent on Friday, Thomas wrote that stripping a domestic abuser’s right to own a gun pursuant to a protective order was a due process violation, calling it “an automatic, uncontestable consequence of certain orders.”

“There is no hearing or opportunity to be heard on the statute’s applicability, and a court need not decide whether a person should be disarmed under §922(g)(8),” Thomas argued. “The only process §922(g)(8) requires is that provided (or not) for the underlying restraining order.”

In Thomas’ view, the Second Amendment acts as “a barrier, placing the right to keep and bear arms off limits to the Government.”

“The Framers and ratifying public understood ‘that the right to keep and bear arms was essential to the preservation of liberty,’” he concluded. “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. I respectfully dissent.”

After the ruling, New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement applauding the court’s decision, calling basic gun laws “commonsense guardrails.” James and a coalition of 25 attorneys general from across the U.S. submitted an amicus brief last year in the Rahimi case, noting that intimate partners are five times more likely to be murdered by an abuser if there is a firearm in the home.

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