Supreme Court decision in Voisine v. United States will protect lives

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June 28, 2016

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Jean Gazis

Legal Momentum applauds the Supreme Court’s decision in Voisine v. United States, which will most certainly protect the lives not only of domestic violence victims, but also members of the general public. The U.S. Supreme Court held that under federal law, convicted perpetrators of reckless or intentional misdemeanor domestic violence are prohibited from possessing firearms.

Legal Momentum’s Executive Vice President and Legal Director, Penny Venetis, summarized the importance of the Court’s opinion: “The decision recognizes the unique manner in which domestic violence is perpetrated—too often through a pattern of behavior made up of small acts of violence that, when isolated, may not appear to pose a threat; but that collectively terrorize domestic partners, putting them at grave risk.” This ruling will have immediate impact on domestic violence victims, particularly women. Gun violence linked to domestic abuse continues to pose an enormous threat to women’s safety. Every month, 51 women in the United States are shot and killed by a current or former partner.

The Court’s decision in Voisine also has broader implications for preventing future violence against the public at large. There is a strong link between domestic violence and mass shootings. A study by Everytown for Gun Safety found that in 18 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2014, the perpetrator had previously been charged with domestic violence, and in 57 percent of the mass shootings the shooter killed a current or former partner or close family member. Domestic violence was an indicator in some of the most devastating mass shootings perpetrated in the United States. Adam Lanza shot his mother before shooting 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in December 2014. According to his ex-wife, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, physically abused her throughout their marriage.

The Supreme Court’s opinion is a milestone in protecting domestic violence victims and the public at large. Legal Momentum will continue to work with federal, state, and local governments to close all loopholes through which domestic abusers obtain firearms. One known way to tamp down on proliferating gun violence and mass shootings in the United States is to deny domestic abusers access to guns. Let’s work together to save lives.

About Legal Momentum

Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, is a nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 to advance the rights of girls and women. We LEAD: litigate, educate, advocate, and defend to promote gender equality. Legal Momentum works in three broad areas: access to justice (including economic justice), freedom from gender-based violence, and equality under the law. Legal Momentum brings cutting-edge impact lawsuits, drafts and supports innovative legislation, and educates judges and court personnel on issues related to gender equality. For more information, visit