The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in United States v. Rahimi, a case that questions whether a person with a domestic violence restraining order against them can possess a firearm. Once again, we’ll see if the court’s hardest-of-hard-right interpretations of the Second Amendment outweighs Americans’ right not to get shot.
NPR has one of the better explainers out there. The newly reactionary Supreme Court brought this case on itself after 2022’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen nullified an as-of-yet-unknown number of federal and state gun restrictions by imposing a new, very particular test.
Sixteen months ago, the conservative court majority broke sharply with the way gun laws had been handled by the courts in the past. In a landmark decision, the six-justice majority ruled that in order to be constitutional, a gun law has to be analogous to a law that existed at the nation’s founding in the late 1700s.
Sound familiar? Yes, we’re back to the foundational question posed by Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and rest of the hard-right bench: Are each of this nation’s current laws compatible with the thoughts of 16th- to 18th-century witch hunters, wifebeaters, and slaveholders who believed that women lacked the intelligence necessary to vote, own property, and choose their own husbands?
At the time the Constitution was being drafted, domestic violence laws did not exist because it was generally accepted (by white men, who were the only ones allowed to vote on these things) that men had the right to beat their wives if that is what it took to achieve proper submission. So long as a man did not take things far enough for someone in the woman’s family to demand a duel or simply drag his ass out behind the carriage house, such abuse was taken as a given.
The Supreme Court’s insistence that none of the clarifications of “civil rights” be stuffed into our laws since that can outweigh the primal instincts of Sir WitchHunter T. WifeBeater, Esq., who wrote down his beliefs between bloodletting sessions and hunting down women who knew a suspicious amount of math, now puts us in a position where this guy is claiming that the Second Amendment allows him to pack a firearm:
The defendant in the case, Zackey Rahimi, is something of a poster child for why Congress passed the law in 1994. In 2019 he assaulted his girlfriend in a parking lot, and after realizing that a bystander saw the assault, he fired a gun at the witness, and threatened to shoot his girlfriend if she told anyone. Two months later, a Texas court granted her a protective order, suspended Rahimi’s gun license, and warned him that possession of a gun while the order remained in effect is a federal felony.
Rahimi repeatedly violated the court order, threatened another woman with a gun and fired a gun in five different locations in a period of one month—incidents that ranged from shooting a gun repeatedly at another driver after a collision, to firing multiple shots in the air after a fast-food restaurant declined a friend’s credit card.
This asshole shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun, a car, power tools, steel-toed boots, or an electric toothbrush, but “gun rights” schemers have propped him up as the example of someone who’s being abused by a system that stripped him of those rights after five separate incidents of shooting at and near others in fits of incompetent, burbling rage.
We didn’t learn much from oral arguments today. The low point was probably when Thomas chose a bizarre aspect of the case to express his skepticism on.
This is precisely what happens when the Supreme Court turns to decision-making via seance. Once you’ve decided that the foundations of the case will rely on Constitution-era musings of the six or seven spirits that Thomas, Alito, and the other conservative justices will now attempt to summon via scented candle, you hardly need to consult the docket for the specifics of the case in front of you.
It is possible that Thomas did absolutely no reading before turning his well-vacationed noodle to the question of whether this particular incarnation of The Worst Person In America still needed unfettered access to his pointy-shooty stick. It’s also possible that this court believes that opening fire in public five times in one month is precisely what the Founding Fathers did intend America to look like, because that’s what the scented candle told them and who the hell are you to argue otherwise?
Conservatives (that is, Republicans) have focused obsessively on stacking federal benches with judges willing to say that the writings of misogynistic half-mystics from nearly 300 years ago must hold priority over each refinement of human rights to have happened since. It would not be out of character for this court to hold that, since there’s no specific Constitutional restriction against domestic abuse, you can’t restrict the “rights” of gun holders to purchase guns expressly for that purpose.
We’ll find out. It’s shocking that the Supreme Court wanted to hear this case. The notion that supposed “gun rights” of Americans with a documented history of threatening others outweigh the rights of the rest of us to not be murdered in one of their fits of rage is apparently a hard sell for Thomas, at a minimum.
And it doesn’t appear to be a love for guns that’s driving these decisions, but a deep-seated anger at civil rights in general. The current Supreme Court reserves its most radical decisions for cases that question whether the rights granted to 18th-century white men of privilege really do extend to every other class of American, or whether believing so was a mistake that now needs to be rectified.