In a 6-2 vote this Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that convicted domestic abusers can be barred from owning firearms.
In a majority opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan, misdemeanor assault convictions are grounds to implement a ban on offenders possessing any kind of gun. As NPR reports, the decision comes after plaintiffs Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong, both from the state of Maine, pleaded guilty in state court to misdemeanor assault charges after assaulting their romantic partners. Years later, each man was caught with firearms and ammunition, violating of a federal law regarding convicted domestic abusers.
Both argued that the weapons ban should not apply to them because their misdemeanor cases were for “reckless conduct” rather than intentional abuse.
Their appeal had been rejected by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the plaintiffs carried it on to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear it. Five justices concurred in Kagan’s opinion, while Justice Clarence Thomas dissented and Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented in part
The case, Voisine v. United States, had attracted attention in recent days because Congress has been in turmoil over efforts to tighten controls on firearms — especially to limit the number of people who can buy guns despite their past actions.
The case caught media attention because it was the first time Justice Clarence Thomas voiced an opinion on the Court almost 10 years. Thomas is known to be a staunch defender gun rights.