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Thread: SCOTUS Allows Non-Specific Domestic Abuse Ban of Gun Ownership

  1. #1
    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    From Wednesday's Washington Post.

    In summary, if someone is convicted of abuse and the victim can be shown to have a domestic relationship, the abuser may be banned from gun ownership, even if the conviction was not specifically for a domestic abuse law. See my bold highlight below.


    Justices Uphold Ban On Guns for Abusers
    Law's Intent Called Clear, if Language Isn't

    By Robert Barnes
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, February 25, 2009; A02

    The Supreme Court yesterday affirmed federal efforts to bar those convicted of crimes involving domestic violence from owning guns.

    It was the court's first decision concerning gun rights since last year's landmark decision recognizing an individual's Second Amendment right to own a firearm. But the 7 to 2 decision authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg contained nary a word about Heller v. District of Columbia, which struck down Washington's ban on handguns.

    Instead, justices wrangled over language and whether Congress's decision to ban firearms to those convicted of "a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" extended to someone convicted of a generic charge of battery, so long as there was a proven domestic relationship between the offender and the victim.

    Ginsburg said Congress might have been inartful in drafting the 1996 law, but its intentions and underlying concerns were clear: "Firearms and domestic strife are a potentially deadly combination nationwide."

    Ginsburg was citing the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in that passage, and its president, Paul Helmke, said the ruling is "the right one for victims of domestic abuse and to protect law enforcement officers who are our first responders to domestic violence incidents."

    Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who sponsored the 1996 amendment to the federal Gun Control Act, said it had kept 150,000 domestic abusers nationwide from obtaining guns.

    The question was whether gun ownership was barred because someone had been convicted of a generic law against the use of force, or whether the law in question must specifically have as an element that the victim was in a domestic relationship with the aggressor.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said it was the latter. It threw out the conviction of Randy Edward Hayes, who had been convicted of battery on his then-wife in 1994. Ten years later, police responding to a domestic violence call about Hayes and his girlfriend found firearms in the home and indicted Hayes.

    Hayes said that the 1994 battery conviction did not trigger the federal ban on firearms, because it was not specifically on the charge of domestic violence.

    But nine other circuits around the country had read the law the other way, and Ginsburg said they were right. Fewer than half the states have laws that specifically denominate domestic violence as an element of a crime.

    Excluding domestic abusers convicted under generic battery laws "would frustrate Congress's manifest purpose," Ginsburg said in announcing her decision from the bench. Congress would not have enacted something that "would have been a dead letter in the majority of states from the very moment of its passage."

    But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, said that the law's ambiguous wording makes it a "textbook case for application of the rule of lenity" and that the case should be decided in Hayes's favor.

    "Ten years in jail is too much to hinge on the will-o'-the-wisp of statutory meaning pursued by the majority," Roberts complained. Like Ginsburg, he did not mention the Heller ruling in his dissent.

    The case is United States v. Hayes.

  2. #2
    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    And from

    Court: No guns for people guilty of domestic violence

    By Bill Mears
    Supreme Court Producer

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a federal ban on gun possession for people previously convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors.

    The 7-2 vote was authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who read a portion of the ruling from the bench in a strong, steady voice.

    It was her second day on the bench after undergoing pancreatic cancer surgery February 5.

    The opinion was a defeat for gun rights supporters, who had challenged groups fighting domestic violence over which ex-felons should be allowed to buy and keep firearms.

    At issue was whether a federal law blocking gun possession for those convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" should apply as well to someone convicted of a general misdemeanor, such as simple battery, which may have been committed against a spouse, child, or other relative. The ambiguity in the federal language and whether it could be applied retroactively was at the heart of the legal debate.

    "Congress sought to apply the firearm ban to all persons convicted of domestic-violence offenses, whether or not their [state] statutes of conviction happen to contain a domestic-relationship element," wrote Ginsburg, who said the rule could be applied retroactively.

    The case involves Randy Edward Hayes, who pleaded guilty in a West Virginia court in 1993 to a misdemeanor battery charge for slapping his then-wife Mary Ann with his hand during an argument. The conviction led to a year of probation.

    More than 10 years later, police responded to a 911 call of a domestic assault occurring at the home Hayes shared with his girlfriend. Deputies responded and, in a search of the house, found an unloaded Winchester rifle under Hayes' bed.

    Hayes was charged with obstruction for lying about whether a gun was in the home, and with domestic battery, another misdemeanor. The battery charge was eventually dropped, but the federal firearms violation stuck.

    His lawyers claim he could not be convicted in federal court of the weapons violations because the original state conviction did not include a domestic relationship element.

    Only 17 states had misdemeanor domestic violence provisions when Congress passed the Federal Gun Control Act in 1996. West Virginia, like many states before and since, often prosecuted such cases as simple assault or battery. Crimes classified as felonies automatically trigger the gun possession ban. A federal appeals court ruled for Hayes.

    The high court in November's oral arguments had criticized the language of the federal law, which Justice Anthony Kennedy lamented was a "mess."

    In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, found the federal law ambiguous at best, as it applied to the various state statutes on domestic violence.

    "An individual should not go to jail for failing to conduct a 50-state survey or comb through legislative history," wrote Roberts. "Ten years in jail is too much to hinge on the will-o'-the-wisp of statutory meaning pursued by the majority."

    The Ginsburg-led majority, however, agreed with the government's position that Congress clearly wanted to include misdemeanor battery in domestic relationships, even if an abuser was not specifically convicted of that offense.

    Gun rights groups say the amendment championed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, was the first time gun ownership was prevented because of a misdemeanor conviction.

    "Why are men with clean histories except for one domestic dispute punished like hardened criminals who mug strangers on the street?" wrote Phyllis Schlafly for the conservative Eagle Forum, which filed a legal brief with the high court supporting Hayes. "The answer is that the feminist agenda calls for domestic-violence laws to punish husbands and fathers above and beyond what can be proven in court under due-process procedures."

    But opponents said the names of thousands of dangerous abusers could be purged from mandatory federal criminal background checks if the law is diluted.

    "The Supreme Court should follow the will of Congress and protect domestic violence victims and law enforcement officers who risk their lives stopping abusers," said Paul Helmke, head of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence. "We should not make it easier for dangerous abusers to get firearms."

  3. #3
    Regular Member Alexcabbie's Avatar
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    Oh hell.....

    Clarence Thomas conceded to this??

    Scalia and Roberts were the only two justices to dissent??

    Anybody still think the two "felon's rights" threads have no validity? What if your ex-wife's brother-in-law gets into it with you and you are BOTH arrested for "disorderly conduct"? Are you both setting yourselves up for ten years on your next visit to the gun store??

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    end the fed. and f the supreme court and washington and that piece of **** helmke

  5. #5
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    If a felon may properly be disbarred his rights under color of law then we all can be disarmed by sufficiently lowering the bar of 'felony' - even to mere allegations of domestic abuse or PTSD.

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