Understanding SCOTUS on Guns

In an 8–1 ruling, the Supreme Court decided today in United States v. Rahimi that an individual “who has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another” can be “temporarily disarmed” without violating the Second Amendment. That said, Zackey Rahimi, the individual in question, was not what lawyers would call a “good test case.”

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Rahimi’s girlfriend (the mother of his child) got a restraining order against him in early 2020, after he pushed her into the dashboard of a car, noticed someone else was watching, grabbed a gun from under the passenger seat, fired it as his victim took the chance to run away, and later threatened to shoot her if she reported what happened. Then he threatened a different woman, leading to a charge for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. “And while Rahimi was under arrest for that assault,” the Court noted, “the Texas police identified him as the suspect in a spate of at least five additional shootings,” whose contexts ranged from drug dealing to road rage to a declined credit card in a diner.

So, believe it or not, the Second Amendment does not protect Rahimi from being prosecuted for the guns the cops found in his home. However, Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion still leaves many questions unanswered regarding the scope of Americans’ gun rights and the government’s leeway for regulation.

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At issue was a federal law barring gun possession for those under a restraining order, subject to certain restrictions: the target of the order must have a chance to participate in a hearing, and that order must either find him a “credible threat to the physical safety” of the victim or explicitly prohibit him from using or threatening force against the victim.

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