Gun ownership can be denied to domestic abusers, Supreme Court rules

By Ed Adamczyk  |  June 27, 2016 at 12:09 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) -- Gun ownership can be denied to those who commit reckless acts of domestic violence, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The 6-2 ruling, in which Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, upheld sentences of two men who argued their prior misdemeanor domestic abuse convictions should not deny them the opportunity to own weapons.

In writing for the majority, Associate Justice Elena Kagan noted petitioners Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong, each from Maine, argued their prior convictions were "based on reckless, rather than knowing or intentional, conduct and thus did not qualify as misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence."

Though each pleaded guilty, their actions, the men reasoned, were insufficient to enforce the federal law against owning firearms. A district court twice rejected the argument, as did the Supreme Court.

In a dissenting opinion, Thomas framed the decision as a denial of the petitioner's Second Amendment rights.

"Under the majority's reading, a single conviction under a state assault statute for recklessly causing an injury to a family member -- such as by texting while driving -- can now trigger a lifetime ban on gun ownership. And while it may be true that such incidents are rarely prosecuted, this decision leaves the right to keep and bear arms up to the discretion of federal, state, and local prosecutors. We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly. At oral argument the government could not identify any other fundamental constitutional right that a person could lose forever by a single conviction for an infraction punishable only by a fine," Thomas wrote.

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