WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today urged the US Supreme Court to hear an important case to preserve states’ authority to bar individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders from accessing guns. In an amicus brief filed in United States v. Rahimi, a coalition of 25 attorneys general led by AG Schwalb and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul urge the Supreme Court to review and overturn an appellate court’s decision striking down a federal law meant to protect survivors of abuse from gun violence.
Federal law bars people subject to domestic violence restraining orders issued after notice and a hearing from possessing firearms. In this case, Zackey Rahimi – who was under a domestic violence restraining order issued by a state court in Texas for assaulting and threatening to shoot his ex-girlfriend – challenged the federal law as a defense to his criminal prosecution, claiming that the law violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution. In an opinion issued earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed with Rahimi’s position. AG Schwalb and the coalition are supporting the federal government’s request that the Supreme Court hear the case and overrule the appellate court’s decision.
“The appellate court’s decision to overturn a federal law disarming domestic abusers poses a grave risk to victims of domestic violence and to public safety,” said AG Schwalb. “Perpetrators of both intimate partner homicide and mass shootings often have a history of domestic violence. Keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals—people a court has already determined pose a credible threat to their partners or children—is constitutional. It’s also common sense. We are urging the Supreme Court to review this case and overturn the appellate court’s decision so that the District and states have the tools we need to protect our residents.”
In addition to the federal law, the District of Columbia and nearly every state in the country have enacted laws limiting access to firearms for those subject to domestic violence restraining orders. AG Schwalb and the attorneys general argue that the appeals court ruling puts at risk domestic violence victims who may be harmed or killed by their abusers and hamstrings both the federal government and states in their efforts to protect their residents’ safety.
The attorneys general argue that statutes of this sort are both constitutional and lifesaving. Studies have shown that such measures reduce homicides of both intimate partners and law enforcement officers. An abuser is five times more likely to murder his or her intimate partner if a firearm is in the home. In the United States, 80% of these homicide victims are women, and pregnant women and women of color are disproportionately the targets of intimate partner violence.
A copy of the brief is available here. AG Schwalb is joined in filing the brief by the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
OAG’s Work to Stop Gun Violence
This brief is the most recent effort by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to address gun violence. OAG’s Civil Litigation Division and Office of Solicitor General have been working to defend the District’s common-sense gun laws—including prohibitions on carrying firearms on public transportation and on large-capacity magazines—against legal challenges. Additionally, OAG’s Public Safety Division prosecutes juvenile and adult misdemeanor firearms offenses in every case in which we have sufficient evidence to do so. Last year, OAG’s Public Advocacy Division filed and won a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against ghost gun manufacturer Polymer80, which was selling kits that enabled individuals to build untraceable ghost guns in their homes. As a result of that lawsuit, Polymer80 was ordered to pay more than $4 million in penalties and to permanently stop selling its frames, receivers, and Buy, Build, Shoot kits to District consumers. Additionally, OAG has continued to expand its Cure the Streets program, a community-based, violence-reduction program that employs a public-health approach to disrupt cycles of violence. In 2022, the Cure program expanded from six to ten sites in neighborhoods that have historically seen the highest rates of gun violence.