Clarence Thomas defends an abuser's right to own a gun, says ban violates "historical tradition"

The conservative justice argued that people accused of domestic violence are being unjustly denied access to guns

Published June 21, 2024 12:01PM (EDT)

Clarence Thomas | Guns (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Clarence Thomas | Guns (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday upheld a federal law that bans gun possession for people covered by a domestic violence court order in an 8-to-1 vote, with conservative Justice Clarence Thomas the only dissenter, Bloomberg reported

This decision, in favor of the Biden administration, bars those who are subjected to domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms and makes it clear that the Constitution’s Second Amendment isn’t so broad as to ensure a dangerous person's right to a gun.

Thomas made his annoyance with the eight justices explicitly clear by issuing a 32-page dissent in which he argued that no such laws existed around the time of the nation's founding  and that any subsequent regulation must be “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation."

“Not a single historical regulation justifies the statute at issue,” he wrote, per the Associated Press, arguing that current law “strips an individual of his ability to possess firearms and ammunition without any due process.”

However, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the domestic violence restriction on gun ownership "fits comfortably within this tradition." 

“Our tradition of firearm regulation allows the government to disarm individuals who present a credible threat to the physical safety of others,” he wrote.

The majority opinion continued: “When an individual has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another, that individual may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment. Since the Founding, the Nation’s firearm laws have included regulations to stop individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms.”

The ruling follows the court's June 14 decision to throw out the federal ban on the bump stock accessory on semiautomatic rifles, which allows the weapon to fire at a speed comparable to a machine gun.

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