Written by Ashton Snyder on
 June 22, 2024

Thomas Offers Lone Dissent in Supreme Court Gun Ban Case

Justice Clarence Thomas stood in dissent, alone, on a significant Supreme Court decision regarding federal gun restrictions.

In a pivotal ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal gun ban for those under domestic violence restraining orders, with Justice Thomas being the lone dissenter, as The Hill reports.

The decision represents a notable victory for the Biden administration and several gun control advocates. It aligns with historic practices of disarming individuals deemed to be credible threats, effectively supporting the existing gun ban for domestic abusers.

Thomas Challenges Historical Precedent

Chief Justice John Roberts led the court's majority in maintaining this position, supported by seven other justices. The case draws on the influential 2022 Bruen test, which Thomas authored and which now serves as a benchmark for evaluating Second Amendment matters.

In his lengthy 32-page dissent, Justice Thomas argued fervently that the federal government lacks adequate historical precedents for revoking Second Amendment rights based solely on a protective order. He insisted that without a crime accusation or conviction, the government should not infringe upon these rights.

“The question is whether the Government can strip the Second Amendment right of anyone subject to a protective order -- even if he has never been accused or convicted of a crime. It cannot,” Thomas declared, starkly contrasting with the majority opinion.

Controversy Around the Bruen Test

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, concurring with Justice Elena Kagan, voiced strong opposition to Thomas’s interpretation, asserting that it was excessively stringent. She commented that Thomas’s stringent approach to the Bruen test undermines reasonable historical analogues.

“Thomas’s opinion picks off the Government’s historical sources one by one, viewing any basis for distinction as fatal,” said Sotomayor in her concurring opinion. Her statement highlights the discord between Thomas and his colleagues over how historical firearm regulations should be interpreted.

The case's origins trace back to Zackey Rahimi, a Texas man contesting his conviction under the federal domestic violence gun law. Rahimi's legal battles bring to light the practical implications of such federal decisions on individual rights.

Defending the Federal Gun Ban

Rahimi was under a restraining order after a series of violent incidents, including dragging his girlfriend and attempting to shoot a witness, which subsequently involved him in five separate shooting incidents. His indictment came after law enforcement discovered a rifle and a pistol in his residence.

The federal law in question was defended robustly by President Joe Biden’s Justice Department. They employed historical references, specifically surety and affray laws, to justify the repressive measures against domestic abusers. Thomas, however, dismissed these historical references as insufficient, arguing they failed to provide an appropriate historical basis for such modern regulations.

The debate over the future of the Bruen test and its application in Second Amendment cases remains heated. Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent signals an ongoing battle over how historical precedents should guide contemporary gun regulations.

This case underscores the tension within the nation's highest court regarding gun rights and public safety considerations. The decisions made today will continue to shape the landscape of firearm regulations in America.

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About Ashton Snyder

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