US asks Supreme Court to uphold domestic violence gun law

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington

By Gram Slattery and Nate Raymond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to allow a federal law stand that makes it a crime for people under domestic violence restraining orders to own firearms.

In February, a three judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans declared that the ban was unconstitutional, saying it violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms. It was 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.

The Supreme Court ruling 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.

The Justice Department's petition to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court was posted on Twitter late on Friday by Jake Charles, a law professor at Pepperdine University with expertise on gun control issues. It can take several days for a petition to be posted to the public docket.

"More than a million acts of domestic violence occur in the United States every year, and the presence of a firearm increases the chance that violence will escalate to homicide," the petition reads.

The Justice Department said it was pursuing the Supreme Court appeal on a "highly expedited schedule" so the justices could potentially take up the case before the current term ends.

In its decision, the 5th Circuit panel, which was comprised of three Republican-appointed judges, 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.

Neither the Justice Department, nor the federal public defender representing Rahimi immediately responded to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery and Nate Raymond; editing by Diane Craft)