Supreme Court upholds gun law intended to protect domestic violence victims

Jun 21, 2024, 6:31 PM | Updated: 6:49 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Supreme Court decided Friday to uphold a federal gun control law that is meant to protect victims of domestic violence. The law prevents people with a domestic violence restraining order from having a gun and helped Utah victim advocates breathe a sigh of relief.

The Court reversed a ruling from the Federal Appeals Court in New Orleans that had struck down the law.

The case started when a Texas man was accused of hitting his girlfriend during an argument in a parking lot, and later threatened to shoot her. The man, later sentenced to prison, filed a lawsuit arguing the federal law stripped his gun rights and was a violation of the Second Amendment.

This is the High Court’s first Second Amendment case since they expanded gun rights in 2022, and why local advocates were surprised by Friday’s ruling.

“We are very relieved,” Jennifer Campbell, executive director of the Utah Violence Coalition, said.

She said it was a win she didn’t expect.

“Often in this work, I don’t think we get to take a lot of breaths and say this is something that we’re being seen, we’re being heard,” Campbell said. “And I hope that individuals impacted by violence feel seen and heard in this moment.”

When the Court ruled to uphold a federal gun ban on people with domestic violence protective orders, the justices prioritized victim safety over changing the interpretation of the Second Amendment.

It doesn’t change Utah law, which already lined up with the ban, but KSL legal analyst Greg Skordas said it’s likely to make some Utah gun owners upset.

“I believe some Utahns, including some members of the legislature, would say you can’t just take someone’s Second Amendment rights away,” Skordas said. “But the Supreme Court of the United States today said yes you can.”

Skordas said the law is limited to cases of domestic violence protective orders, but victim advocates hope it’s not the only legal step given to protect victims going forward.

According to a 2020 report looking at Utah Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence Fatalities, domestic violence deaths made up more than 22% of all Utah homicides. Victim advocates believe it’s hard to say how many times guns were used in those deaths.

“One of the weaknesses we have is our data collection and looking at how guns are used,” Campbell said.

Friday’s ruling helps Utah keep the standard, but a standard that victims still hope can change in the future.

Prior to Friday, KSL had heard rumblings that some in the state legislature were thinking of tweaking gun laws for domestic violence cases. This ruling now makes them harder to change.

If you or someone you know is going through abuse, help is available.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465).

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Supreme Court upholds gun law intended to protect domestic violence victims