It wasn’t enough for the Supreme Court to gut abortion rights last year. The justices also unleashed a Second Amendment ruling with potentially deadly effects.
On Thursday, we got a reminder of how perilous that ruling can be, with an appeals court decision that struck down a federal law that keeps guns out of the hands of people under domestic violence restraining orders.
How did we reach this menacing moment?
The deranged logic is that if past generations didn’t see fit to address a problem, we’re doomed to suffer today.
Well, according to the 5th Circuit, the nation’s most right-wing appeals court, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, that result is required by the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
In Bruen, decided in June, the Republican-appointed majority not only expanded the right to carry guns in public, but also set forth a test that strikes down gun regulations unless, according to Justice Clarence Thomas’ majority opinion, they’re “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” The deranged logic is that if past generations didn’t see fit to address a problem, we’re doomed to suffer today.
Dissenting in Bruen in his final term on the court, Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, took stock of the ruling's predictable consequences, pointing to, among other things, a study that found women are five times more likely to be killed by abusive partners with access to guns. Breyer noted his “fear that the Court’s interpretation ignores these significant dangers and leaves States without the ability to address them.”
Women are five times more likely to be killed by abusive partners with access to guns.
So it’s both absurd and unsurprising that Bruen led a three-judge 5th Circuit panel Thursday — two Trump appointees and a Reagan appointee, by the way — to strike down the law keeping guns from abusers because, according to the panel, there wasn’t a similar enough law in place hundreds of years ago. Even the 5th Circuit previously upheld the law before Bruen. But the panel said Bruen compelled the result, even though the 5th Circuit judges acknowledged that the law they struck down “embodies salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society.”
Thus, a practical effect of the 5th Circuit's ruling in United States v. Rahimi is that people protected by restraining orders in that circuit — again, that’s Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi — have new reason to fear for their safety. And even though the ruling only applies in those states, the fate of the law nationwide may be determined on appeal to the Supreme Court. Indeed, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced after the ruling that the Justice Department will challenge it. So the justices may soon be confronted with the latest mess they chose to make.