The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, March 26, 2014
“Victory for Families Everywhere,” according to The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously agreed that federal law prohibits all convicted domestic abusers from owning guns in U.S. v. Castleman. This is a victory over the corporate gun lobby that argued that federal law allows some domestic violence offenders to possess firearms. The Court rejected the gun lobby’s argument as contrary to the federal Lautenberg Amendment, which prevents persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic assaults from owning guns.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans – and every Supreme Court Justice – agrees that guns and domestic violence are a deadly mix, and that we need to make it harder, not easier, for dangerous people to get guns,” said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “This decision will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Make no mistake, more needs to be done to expand and strengthen the Brady background check system to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling is an important victory for women, children and families across the country, who thankfully will continue to be protected by strong, sensible federal laws that keep domestic violence abusers from obtaining guns,” said Jonathan Lowy, Director, Legal Action Project, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “It is a telling indictment of the gun lobby’s extremism that not a single Justice agreed with its call to explode a gaping hole in the law that would have enabled domestic abusers to buy and possess guns in many states.”
In U.S. v. Castleman, a Tennessee man was charged with gun trafficking and illegal possession of a firearm, following a conviction for misdemeanor domestic assault in 2001. He argued that the Lautenberg Amendment did not bar him from possessing a firearm because the Tennessee domestic assault law did not require a sufficient degree of physical force. In 2010, a federal district court agreed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the ruling in 2012. The Supreme Court today unanimously reversed that decision.
“The ban on domestic abusers owning firearms has been an important part of federal firearms law since it was proposed by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg in 1996. Keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers unquestionably prevents gun violence. In 2010 alone, at least 574 women in the United States were shot to death by a husband, ex-husband, or boyfriend—that is more than one woman murdered by a domestic partner every day,” added Lowy. “As the Supreme Court recognized, strong laws are needed to help remedy the undercharging of domestic assaults and difficulties in prosecuting domestic violence.”
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed an amicus brief opposing Castleman’s arguments in November 2013. The brief was joined by numerous gun violence prevention organizations, including the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, and the Violence Policy Center. Jonathan Lowy is available for comment on today’s ruling by the Supreme Court.
View the amicus brief filed by the Brady Center.