A U.S. appeals court on Thursday declared unconstitutional a federal law making it a crime for people under domestic violence restraining orders to own firearms.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest victory for gun rights advocates since a Supreme Court ruling last June granting a broad right for people to carry firearms outside the home.
That ruling, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, announced a new test for assessing firearms laws, saying restrictions must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” and not simply advance an important government interest.
In Thursday’s decision, Circuit Judge Cory Wilson said banning people under domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms “embodies salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society.”
But the judge said the Bruen ruling made such a consideration irrelevant, and that from a historical perspective the ban was “an outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted.”
The court threw out the guilty plea and six-year prison sentence for Zackey Rahimi, who admitted to possessing guns found in his Kennedale, Texas, home after prosecutors said he participated in five shootings in Dec. 2020 and Jan. 2021.
Rahimi had been under a restraining order since Feb. 2020, following his alleged assault of a former girlfriend.
A federal public defender representing Rahimi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, in a written statement, disagreed with the 5th Circuit’s ruling and said the Biden administration would appeal.
“Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent, or of the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, that statute is constitutional,” Garland said. “Accordingly, the Department will seek further review of the Fifth Circuit’s contrary decision.”
The 5th Circuit is based in New Orleans, and its decision applies in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
It had upheld the federal law last June 8, just over two weeks before the Bruen decision, but withdrew its opinion and ordered additional briefing.
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