Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds VAWA Gun Ban

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Citing a brief in which Legal Momentum participated as amicus, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act that ban gun possession by those who have been convicted in state court of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.  Writing the majority opinion, Justice Sotomayor initially  discussed the escalation of  the severity of domestic violence over time, and the how the presence of firearms in that context could increase six-fold the likelihood of a survivor of violence being killed. She then stated that the Congress had enacted the statute at issue in the case to close a loophole wherein those convicted of felony crimes of domestic violence had to surrender possession of firearms, while those who were found guilty of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence--–though their underlying crimes were often as severe, albeit pled down to misdemeanor--did not.

Reversing the dismissal of charges brought against a Tennessee man who had appealed his illegal firearm charges (he had been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence in 2001), the Court upheld the firearms provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, effectively settling a dispute among several federal courts about whether proof of physical force is required to support a domestic violence charge.

The case is U.S. v. Castleman.