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Supreme Court decides to hear North Texas case on guns and domestic violence

The Justice Department had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans for an emergency stay of an abortion pill ruling by a federal judge in Texas while the court hears the case.
Jonathan Bachman
The Justice Department had asked the Supreme Court to overturn a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a North Texas case.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals case that ruled the federal law prohibiting subjects of domestic violence protective orders from having firearms is unconstitutional.

The Violence Against Women Act is a federal law that says in part that people with a domestic violence protective order against them can’t have firearms if certain conditions are met. The 5th Circuit Court ruled that section of the law is unconstitutional in United States v. Zackey Rahimi in February.

The Biden Administration petitioned the court to hear the case and uphold the federal law. Several organizations joined that plea and filed arguments, including the Texas Council on Family Violence.

Rahimi is accused of being involved in five shootings in the Arlington area from December 2020 to January 2021. Arlington police officers served a warrant at his home. They reported finding a .45-caliber pistol, .308-caliber rifle, pistol and rifle magazines, ammunition and about $20,000 in cash.

Police said they also found a copy of a protective order against Rahimi in the home from February 2020. Rahimi was accused of assaulting the mother of his child.

Protective orders must fulfill three requirements for federal charges to be filed under the Violence Against Women Act: The person must be notified of a hearing and have the opportunity to respond. The order also must forbid harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner or their child and have proof of a credible threat.

Federal prosecutors determined that Rahimi’s case met all the requirements, and he was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Texas. The charge is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Rahimi moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the domestic violence law violated his Second Amendment rights. A federal district court denied that motion noting that the 5th Circuit upheld that law in a 2021 case. The 5th Circuit affirmed that decision, so Rahimi then pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 73 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.

Then the Supreme Court released its ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. That ruling, which was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, created a new legal framework for gun regulations.

Eric Ruben, an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, said in a previous interview with KERA that courts are having to look back centuries to find legal precedent.

“The modern-day court — addressing a modern-day law, addressing modern-day problems — has to find a historical analog from the late 1700s or maybe into the 1800s before it can uphold the modern law,” Ruben said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Bruen led the 5th Circuit to revisit its decision in the Rahimi case. The lower court ended up reversing its previous ruling and vacated Rahimi’s conviction.

“Rahimi, while hardly a model citizen, is nonetheless part of the political community entitled to the Second Amendment's guarantees,” the ruling said.

Mikisha Hooper told KERA in a previous interview that the 5th Circuit’s ruling in the Rahimi case is confusing. She’s the coordinated community response manager for the Texas Council on Family Violence.

“One of the challenges is that it creates uncertainty about right now,” Hooper said. “What will the ultimate outcome of this issue around prohibitions for domestic violence protective orders be?”

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at

Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

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Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.