The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a case that could have major implications for the rights of domestic violence victims and their abusers. The case, Holloway v. Garland, challenges the constitutionality of a federal law that prohibits people under domestic violence restraining orders from having guns.
The law, known as 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), was enacted in 1996 as part of the Violence Against Women Act and it applies to people who are subject to a court order that restrains them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child. The law aims to prevent domestic violence and homicide by taking guns away from people who pose a danger to their families.
The case involves a Texas man named James Holloway, who was convicted of violating the law in 2017. Holloway was subject to a restraining order in 2016 after he assaulted and threatened his girlfriend, who later obtained a permanent order against him. Holloway was arrested for having nine guns in his possession, which he claimed were for self-defense and hunting.
Holloway challenged his conviction, arguing that the law violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. He relied on a 2008 Supreme Court ruling, District of Columbia v. Heller, that recognized an individual right to have a handgun in the home for self-defense. Holloway’s lawyer, David Thompson, told the justices on Monday that “the Second Amendment is not a second-class right” and that the law was too broad and arbitrary.
The Biden administration appealed Holloway’s case to the Supreme Court, defending the law as a reasonable and necessary measure to protect public safety. The acting U.S. solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar, said in her brief that the law was consistent with the long tradition of taking guns from people deemed dangerous and that it served a vital interest in preventing domestic violence and homicide. She argued that the law did not impose a permanent ban on gun ownership, but only a temporary restriction that could be lifted once the restraining order expired or was terminated.
The case has drawn the attention of advocacy groups for victims of domestic abuse, who have warned of the grave danger posed by armed abusers. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, women are five times more likely to be killed by an abuser if he has access to a gun.
– US Supreme Court mulls legality of domestic-violence gun curbs, Reuters, Nov. 7, 2023
– ‘It’s open season on women’: Domestic violence survivor warns on gun laws before SCOTUS, Yahoo News, Nov. 7, 2023
– Supreme Court to hear arguments in case over gun rights for those accused of domestic violence, CBS News, Nov. 7, 2023
– US supreme court to hear case on domestic abuser’s right to own guns, The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2023