The Supreme Court will decide whether federal law can prohibit gun possession for people who are subject to domestic violence orders, the first Second Amendment case at the high court since a decision last year that expanded the right to carry firearms in public.
Friday’s announcement from the justices comes after a wave of decisions on gun laws from appeals courts in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen in 2022.
That decision laid out a new legal test for the constitutionality of gun regulations that relies on the history and tradition of the founding era. Judges implementing it since then have tossed restrictions such as prohibitions for nonviolent felons to bans on carrying in the New York City subway.
The case now before the justices will be the first major chance for the justices to revisit the Bruen case, in which a 6-3 majority of the court struck down a New York law governing who can obtain a concealed weapon permit in the state.
The justices likely will hear the case in the next term starting in October and issue a decision before the end of June.
The Biden administration asked the justices to overturn a February decision from a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that tossed a federal restriction on firearm possession for people subject to domestic violence restraining orders.
Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, in asking the justices to review the 5th Circuit decision, argued the government should still be able to keep firearms out of the hands of people who have been found in a court of law to be a danger to the public. Prelogar said there are numerous historical examples that support taking firearms from people who could present a danger but have not been convicted.
“Those descriptions suggest that the government may properly disarm citizens who are dangerous, irresponsible, or unlikely to abide by the law,” Prelogar wrote.
In the year since the decision, courts have used the Bruen test to overturn a replacement New York law, a restriction on possession of guns without a serial number, a restriction on gun possession while under felony indictment and a restriction on gun possession for nonviolent felons.
Gun control advocates praised the Supreme Court decision to hear the case, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Douglas Letter, the group’s chief legal counsel, in a statement called the 5th Circuit decision in the case “egregiously wrong.”
“Prohibiting domestic violence abusers from accessing firearms is common-sense, life-saving, and constitutional,” Letter said.
Court filings said the defendant in the case, Zackey Rahimi, had a criminal record and was subject to a domestic violence restraining order in 2020 after he threatened his girlfriend. Later he was convicted of threatening a different woman with a gun and several times fired a weapon in public, according to court records.
Federal investigators searched his home and found firearms, then charged him with violation of the domestic violence order statute. Rahimi initially pleaded guilty but revived a challenge to the constitutionality of the statute after the Bruen decision.
The 5th Circuit overturned the conviction, finding the 1994 law violated Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Judge Cory T. Wilson wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that the domestic violence order could not be enough to deprive Rahimi of firearms.
“Rahimi, while hardly a model citizen, is nonetheless part of the political community entitled to the Second Amendment’s guarantees, all other things equal,” the 5th Circuit decision states.
Rahimi attempted to convince the justices not to hear the case, saying in a filing that the appeals court “faithfully” applied the test laid out in Bruen.