The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law Wednesday barring anyone convicted of even a minor domestic violence charge from ever owning a gun.
In a unanimous ruling, the nine justices ruled against James Castleman, who argued that his past conviction in Tennessee of misdemeanor domestic assault against the mother of his child shouldn’t keep him from owning a firearm under federal law.
Castleman had been charged with illegal possession of a firearm when he and his wife were later accused of trafficking weapons on the black market. One of these weapons was found at the scene of a crime in Chicago.
An appeals court in Tennessee had agreed with Castleman’s contention that the Tennessee definition of misdemeanor domestic assault is less strict than the federal one, and that the incident for which he was convicted did not include physical force as described under the federal law.
But the Supreme Court overruled that decision.
Progressive Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Castleman’s arguments “are unpersuasive” and the court saw “no anomaly in grouping domestic abusers convicted of generic assault or battery offenses together with the others whom (federal law) disqualifies from gun ownership.”
The top court thus upheld the federal law on gun ownership, which is more strict than those of most states.
“Women and children are safer today because of the decision by the Supreme Court to enforce the federal law barring domestic abusers from possessing guns as it was intended,” said John Feinblatt, chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the ruling “will save countless lives by keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.”
“It also reaffirms 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,” he added.
The decision comes as members of Congress have proposed to strengthen background checks for people trying to buy guns. Efforts so far, however, including those backed by President Barack Obama, have failed to gain traction.
In a different case, the top court is soon expected to rule on the legality of buying a gun on behalf of another person whose background check was not previously carried out.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]