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Even the Supreme Court Couldn’t Ignore the Allegations in This Gun Case — Except for Clarence Thomas

The court ruled 8-1 that people subject to domestic violence restraining orders can be banned from gun ownership. The sole dissenter was Justice Clarence Thomas.

The United States v. Rahimi decision was a rare recent instance of the Supreme Court maintaining a restriction on guns. Bebeto Matthews/AP

The Supreme Court’s 8-1 ruling on Friday in United States v. Rahimi seemed to be a simple decision for all but Justice Clarence Thomas.

The opinion, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, found that laws prohibiting potentially dangerous individuals, such as domestic abusers, from possessing firearms do not violate the Second Amendment. Thomas disagreed.

“There is no doubt that [the law being considered] is irreconcilable with the Second Amendment’s text,” Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion. “It is also undisputed that the Second Amendment applies to Rahimi.”

Though recent court opinions on firearm cases have leaned in favor of the gun advocate, Rahimi’s did not, and for a clear reason: Zackey Rahimi is allegedly a violent individual who has been accused of multiple shootings.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today in United States v. Rahimi upholds Congress’s longstanding prohibition on the possession of firearms by people subject to domestic-violence restraining orders,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement after the ruling. “That law protects victims by keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals who pose a threat to their intimate partners and children.”

During oral arguments, justices sounded pessimistic about upholding the 5th Circuit’s ruling in Rahimi’s favor, worrying that it might allow domestic abusers and other dangerous citizens access to firearms that would have previously been denied.

Rahimi wasn’t exactly a model case for the right to gun ownership.

The mother of Rahimi’s child was granted a protective order against him in February 2020 following a December 2019 incident when he allegedly dragged the victim back to his car after she attempted to walk away during an argument. Police said that during the struggle, she hit her head on the dash, and Rahimi shot at a witness at the scene.

He later violated the order and was arrested and charged with using a firearm to threaten a different woman.

At the end of the year, Rahimi was suspected of being involved in five shooting incidents across two months. When police executed a search warrant on his home, they found a rifle and a pistol. They arrested him for violating the protective order.

The 5th Circuit denied Rahimi’s appeal that the law was unconstitutional but reversed its decision after the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling in 2022. Roberts said that was a mistake.

“The Court’s decisions in Heller and Bruen do not help Rahimi,” Roberts said in his opinion.

President Joe Biden applauded the ruling.

“No one who has been abused should have to worry about their abuser getting a gun,” he said in a statement. “As a result of today’s ruling, survivors of domestic violence and their families will still be able to count on critical protections, just as they have for the past three decades.”

Ben T.N. Mause is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.