New York Attorney General Letitia James and a multistate coalition today took action to prevent individuals who are under a domestic violence restraining order from accessing guns and to protect governmental authority to impose these protections.
In an amicus brief filed today in the United States Supreme Court, the coalition of 25 attorneys general urged the Supreme Court to hear the case United States v. Rahimi. In this case, the defendant, Zakey Rahimi, was under a domestic violence restraining order in Texas for assaulting and shooting a firearm at his girlfriend, which legally barred him from possessing guns under both state and federal law. Rahimi was subsequently involved in multiple shootings and was indicted for possession of a firearm while under a domestic violence restraining order. He challenged the federal statute and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued an opinion earlier this year holding that the Second Amendment prohibits disarming persons under orders of protection for domestic violence. The coalition of 25 attorneys general is asking the Supreme Court to hear the case and overrule the lower court.
“It is common sense that people who are under active restraining orders for domestic violence should not be able to get guns,” said Attorney General James. “This is a basic protection that states and the federal government have long imposed, and the efforts to undo this law will have grave consequences for survivors of domestic abuse, law enforcement, and the general public. States must have the ability to protect our communities from gun violence and prevent dangerous people from getting guns.”
Federal law bars people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms. In addition to the federal law, nearly every state in the country has enacted a law limiting access to firearms for those subject to domestic violence restraining orders. The coalition argues that the appeals court ruling puts at risk domestic violence victims who may be harmed or killed by their abusers, and hampers 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 percent of these homicide victims are women, and pregnant women and women of color are disproportionately the targets of intimate partner violence.
Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia.
This amicus brief is part of Attorney General James’ ongoing efforts to address gun violence throughout New York and across the nation. On Saturday, April 29, Attorney General James, together with partners in local law enforcement, will host New York’s first ever statewide gun buyback event, with nine individual regional events throughout the state. Last month, Attorney General James and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force took down a firearm and drug trafficking operation that illegally sold guns, including ghost guns and assault weapons, in New York City. The takedown recovered 19 firearms, including 12 ghost guns. In March, Attorney General James secured a court order banning 10 gun distributors from selling and shipping ghost gun parts into New York. In December 2022, Attorney General James and the task force removed 57 illegal firearms, including 51 ghost guns, as part of a 438-count indictment against three individuals. In June 2022, Attorney General James sued 10 those national gun distributors for bringing ghost gun parts into New York. In November 2022, Attorney General James sent cease and desist orders to 39 ammunition sellers demanding that they stop shipping ammunition directly to New York and warned them of serious legal consequences if they continue to violate New York’s law. Additionally, through her gun buyback program, Attorney General James has been able to remove more than 4,000 guns from New York communities since 2019.