Should domestic abusers own guns? No, says Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law that prohibits people convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse from owning guns.

Alex Brandon/AP
The Supreme Court building is seen in Washington last week as the court announced several decisions.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday to uphold a federal law that prohibits those convicted of domestic violence from owning guns, regardless of whether the violence was premeditated or not. 

The case in question involved two Maine men who claimed they should not be barred from owning firearms after pleading guilty to hitting their partners. Both men had been charged with possessing guns while having past domestic abuse misdemeanor convictions. 

The justices rejected arguments from the men that the law only covers premeditated acts of abuse, not acts of abuse committed in the heat of an argument. 

"A person who assaults another recklessly ‘use[s]’ force, no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally," wrote Justice Elena Kagan, who authored the majority opinion.  

Justice Kagan was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito for a 6-2 ruling.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas dissented. 

"We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly," said Justice Thomas in his dissent. "In construing the statute before us expansively so that causing a single minor reckless injury or offensive touching can lead someone to lose his right to bear arms forever, the court continues to relegate the Second Amendment to a second-class right." 

Thomas's dissent reflected the views of some gun rights groups, who argued that the men shouldn't lose their constitutional right to bear arms because of misdemeanor abuse convictions.  

The ruling was applauded by advocates for victims of domestic abuse. According to one study, domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a gun. 

Some advocates, such as Judge Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families, said that while the ruling is a good step, loopholes in current gun laws still allow convicted abusers to access firearms with relative ease. 

"Today’s ruling is an important victory," she told the Huffington Post in a statement, "but without mandatory background checks on all gun purchasers, domestic abusers still can legally obtain guns without further scrutiny." 

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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