On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that domestic abusers who had a reckless conduct should also be stripped of their constitutional right of owning and carrying a firearm. Until this decision, a two-decade-old federal law on domestic violence prevented only intentional domestic abusers from owning a gun.
The ruling was taken on a 6-to-2 vote. Justice Clarence Thomas, who is usually extremely quiet in the court, posed some sensitive questions to his colleagues. One question was related to whether a simple misdemeanor of domestic abuse would be enough to trigger the prohibition.
Justice Thomas even asked that his colleagues provide him with a single example of when a misdemeanor had suspended a constitutional right.
Another question was related to whether domestic abusers should be stripped of their constitutional life of owning firearms permanently. Justice Thomas noted that if that it the case the Second Amendment would be treated a second-class right.
Stephen Voisine, one of the two men who brought the case before the nation’s top court, was unhappy with federal prosecutors’ decision of preventing him from carrying firearms after he was convicted for a domestic abuse misdemeanor.
Voisine noted that federal prosecutors stripped him of his constitutional right without even proving beforehand that his conduct was intentional because the Maine law included reckless behavior as well.
His argument was rejected by the court which said that a person who uses psychical force on another person recklessly uses it just like an intentional offender would.
The justices also said that if they were to exempt reckless behavior from the federal firearms ban that would mean striking bans across 34 states and allowing “domestic abusers of all mental states” to escape the gun prohibition.
Advocates against domestic violence hailed the ruling. Joan S. Meier of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment Appeals Project argued that even minor acts of domestic violence are parts of a larger scheme of terror in which coercive control plays a critical role.
But Justice Thomas believes that the ban should only focus on abusers that do harm intentionally. Reckless domestic abusers don’t necessarily resort to physical force. He said that there is a big difference between somebody who punches his wife and someone who unintentionally swings a baseball bat too close to her.
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