WASHINGTON -- The United States Supreme Court today rejected arguments by the gun lobby and convicted wife beater Randy Edward Hayes that federal law allowed Hayes to possess firearms, upholding the broad federal ban on gun possession by convicted misdemeanor domestic violence abusers. The Court cited arguments made by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence about the risks posed by firearms in the hands of domestic abusers.
The 7-2 ruling in United States v. Hayes was a blow to gun lobby groups that had urged the Court to severely narrow the federal Lautenberg Amendment that bars gun possession by abusers convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. The Court reversed an earlier ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that, if upheld, would have allowed convicted abusers in at least 25 states to rearm themselves with firearms.
“In its first gun case since the landmark Heller decision, the Court wisely upheld this reasonable restriction,” said Brady Center President Paul Helmke. “Today’s 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.”
“Today, the Supreme Court sided with abused women and children and against the gun lobby,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), a leader in the fight to reduce gun violence and the author of the domestic violence gun ban. “Since it was enacted, my domestic violence gun ban has kept more than 150,000 guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. We know a gun in the home makes it much more likely that domestic abuse results in death and today's decision means we can continue keeping guns out of dangerous hands and saving innocent lives.”
Congress enacted the Lautenberg Amendment in 1996 to prohibit abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from possessing firearms. In April 2007, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a wife beater’s conviction for illegal gun possession by narrowly interpreting the Lautenberg Amendment as only barring gun possession by abusers convicted of laws specifically barring domestic violence, rather than all persons convicted of domestic violence under general assault and battery laws.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, joined by law enforcement organizations, had filed a brief in support of the ban on gun possession by all abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, which was cited by the Court. The brief highlighted the great danger that armed abusers pose to family members of these abusers as well as law enforcement officers summoned to address such violence. On average, more than three people are killed by intimate partners every day in this country. Intimate partner homicides account for up to one-half of all homicides of females. Every year between 1,000 and 1,600 women die at the hands of their male partners, and 14 percent of all police officer deaths occurred during a response to domestic violence calls.
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