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Domestic Violence

Guns Make Domestic Violence More Deadly

A recent Supreme Court ruling could be setback for domestic violence victims.

Key points

  • Domestic violence with a firearm in the home increases the risk of murder by 400%.
  • A 1994 federal law protected victims with a restraining order that required abusers to give up firearms.
  • That law was recently re-interpreted.
Ekaterina-Bolovtso/ Pexels
Source: Ekaterina-Bolovtso/ Pexels

If you’re afraid for your life and obtain a restraining order for protection, in the near future, you might no longer expect your abuser who owns a gun to be required to turn it in. A federal law that bans people with domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns was established out of a direct correlation between domestic violence and gun violence. But the new direction of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court means a federal law based on public safety may no longer be considered.

Conservative Supreme Court and Domestic Violence

“One of the nation’s most conservative appeals courts has struck down a federal law banning people currently under domestic violence restraining orders from owning guns. The decision, which only applies in the Fifth Circuit of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, is part of the massive legal fallout from a Supreme Court ruling last year” (PBS, NewsHour, 2023).

This is what we now know. The new standard set by the Supreme Court states that the law is “an outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted.” So, since domestic violence wasn’t recognized in the 18th or 19th centuries as a crime, the law now is unconstitutional. In 1994, domestic violence was eventually criminalized, and restraining orders as a federal law of protection, were established.

With a majority of conservative judges on the Supreme Court, laws that were not around in the early days of the United States, are not allowed to exist now. In other words, what existed over two hundred years ago is the focus of the court and something like public interest and safety can’t be considered.

The federal law intended to provide public safety can now be seen as a violation of the second amendment given the Supreme Court ruling in 2022. The Supreme Court in the “Bruen decision” changed the approach that was used by lower courts for appraising challenges to firearm restrictions.

Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders for Protection

Why we have restraining orders in the first place (C. Brownlee, PBS):

  • One-fourth of homicides that occur with guns are in some way related to domestic violence or family violence.
  • Half of the women in the U.S. who were shot or killed each year took place in a domestic violence incident.
  • Having a firearm in the home increases the risk of murder by domestic violence by 400 percent.

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Basing federal laws on history and tradition could lead to the perpetuation of past atrocities, such as women not having the right to vote, slavery, and marital rape.

In October of this year, the Supreme Court justices agreed to hear an appeal by President Biden’s administration of a lower court’s ruling that the law was in direct conflict with the Second Amendment’s “right to keep and bear arms”—due to not fitting our nation’s historical tradition of regulating firearms.

In the meantime, most states continue to have protective laws in place that require abusers to forfeit their firearms if a restraining order is obtained against them.



Brownlee, C. 2023. “Court ruling allows people under domestic violence restraining orders to possess guns.” PBS, NewsHour, July 6, 2023.

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