Disarming Domestic Violence: Another Important Victory for Victims and Survivors

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States, in US v Rahimi, upheld a federal law that prevents domestic abusers from having guns.

The court held that “an individual found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, underscored in her US v. Rahimi concurrence that “the Government has a compelling interest in keeping firearms out of the hand of domestic abusers,” citing four key statistics:

  • A woman who lives with a domestic abuser is five times more likely to be murdered if the abuser has access to a gun.
  • More than 70 people are shot and killed by an intimate partner each month in the United States.
  • In about 25% of cases where an abuser killed an intimate partner, the abuser also killed someone else, such as a child, family member, or roommate.
  • Domestic disputes are the most dangerous type of call for responding officers, causing more officer deaths with a firearm than any other type of call.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) worked with several partners to file a “unique, survivor-centered amicus brief” in which “survivors shared distressing accounts of how abusive partners used guns to further their abuse, including implicit and explicit threats.” The organization also highlighted the stories of two victims who did not live to tell them.

During one of many domestic violence calls to Connie’s* house, her mother told the officers that her son-in-law had a gun and had threatened to kill her daughter. The police said there was nothing they could do. One night, when Connie went to pick up her 10-year-old daughter from her husband, he shot Connie seven times right in front of her daughter.

Amy* was seeking a permanent Civil Protection Order against an abuser. While she had a temporary protective order and was awaiting a court date for the civil protective order, the abuser shot and killed Amy in her home with her five young children nearby.

In a public statement on the court’s decision, NNEDV expressed its gratitude for “this continued, life-saving protection for survivors,” noting that although civil protection orders are not perfect, they are “a critical piece of safety for many domestic violence survivors around the country.”

While this decision is indeed a victory, it feels somewhat hollow because much more must be done. We must continue to listen to and address the needs of domestic violence victims and survivors. We must continue to give voice to the stories of victims who did not survive their circumstances. And we must continue to stand with survivors until there are too many of us to stand against.

Please, stand with us.

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