Gun Ownership Rights Denied to Perpetrators of Domestic Violence

In a 6-2 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, June 27th that people who commit reckless acts of domestic violence can be denied gun ownership rights. Two men were convicted in the State of Maine for possessing firearms following misdemeanor acts of domestic violence.

The case of Voisine et al. v. United States raised the issue of whether those guilty of reckless, rather than intentional or knowing, acts of domestic violence triggers Congress’ extension of the federal prohibition on firearm possession by those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Put simply: can you own a gun if you have been convicted of a reckless misdemeanor act of domestic violence? The Court says no.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion closing a loophole to “prohibit domestic abusers convicted under run-of-the-mill misdemeanor assault and battery laws from possessing guns.” The dissenting opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas (notable because Thomas spoke from the bench for the first time in 10 years during oral argument on this matter) raises concern regarding the fact that now one single conviction under a state assault statute for reckless acts of violence could trigger a lifetime ban on gun ownership. Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined the dissent, in part, with regard to the issue of statutory interpretation; if Congress wanted the gun ban to cover all reckless conduct, it could have written the law more specifically to indicate that intention.

Now, following the High Court’s decision, an individual convicted of misdemeanor acts of domestic violence can be prohibited from owning firearms.

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About Alicia Fastman

Alicia Fastman graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, then went on to complete her Juris Doctorate at the Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, DE. Ms. Fastman graduated from law school with pro bono distinction, completed a Certificate in Criminal Law, and focused her intensive studies within the fields of litigation and trial advocacy. Ms. Fastman is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, and is a member of the Pennsylvania and Delaware County Bar Associations. Ms. Fastman specializes in family law as well as other areas of the firm’s litigation practice.