Supreme Court Holds up Gun Restrictions After Recent Laws Expanded the Second Amendment Rights

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Jun 21, 2024

On Friday morning, the Supreme Court upheld a recent law that stops anyone from owning a gun if they have a current restraining order against them due to domestic violence charges. The ruling takes a large step back from a recent endorsement of the right for any American to possess a gun.

The court voted in a surprising 8-1 ruling that sided with the Biden administration. It is one of several federal gun-related restrictions currently facing legal challenges in the country.

Longstanding Gun Restrictions Are Likely To Survive Despite Recently Expanding Gun Laws

In 2022, the Supreme Court made a sweeping decision to expand gun rights by finding that Americans have a right to bear arms outside of the umbrella of the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

A large white courthouse with an American flag waving at half mast

Source: Jonas Ekstomer/NDLA

The ruling shows that the court has a new agenda despite its right-leaning majority and history of voting alongside Republican laws. Now, longstanding gun restrictions are suspected to be kept in place.

The Majority Agrees that Firearms Need To Have Restrictions

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote on behalf of the majority and expressed that the United States was originally founded with an understanding that firearms needed restrictions and laws to keep the public safe.

A man pictured shopping for a gun

Source: Wikimedia

He wrote that since its inception, “our nation’s firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from missing firearms.” He also noted that the outline in the case “fits comfortably within this tradition.”

Supreme Court Did Not Completely Side with the Biden Administration

Although the Supreme Court reached a ruling favorable to the Biden administration, it took issue with the provisions outlined in the documents.

President Joe Biden stands at a podium delivering a speech in front of an ocean

Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images

For instance, they disagree that the government should not be able to disarm people who are not “responsible.” However, a separate argument is usually made for anyone with a history of violence or dangerous use of a weapon.

The Ruling is Meant to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence

Attorney General Merrick Garland happily welcomed the new ruling. He stated in a brief press conference that the law will “protect victims by keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals who pose a threat to their intimate partners and children.”

Three policemen walk around the exterior of the Supreme Court building

Source: @WTNH/X

Similar laws were passed last month in California to disallow gun shows from operating at state fairs with the express purpose of keeping families and young children safe from firearms. Guns around children have been a hot topic in the United States for decades, and advocates hope that the tides continue to turn in the direction of safety.

Only One Justice Held Out on Voting the Measure Through

Although the law passed with almost complete consensus among the judges, one lone conservative held out. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the majority in favor of more lax gun laws.

Official photograph of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Source: Britannica

The law showed a new division between Thomas and his conservative peers, who normally vote in unison. However, gun rights might finally be the breaking point for the Republican-dominant court. Five other justices wrote their own separate opinions that concurred with the majority panel.


The New Vote Calls Into Question a Two Year Old Case

Lawsuits for gun rights have constantly been in the highest courts for decades. While some argue that an American has the right to bear arms for any reason, many think that the country’s laissez fair attitude toward guns has resulted in millions of unnecessary deaths.

A man holding a machine gun and wearing headphones at an indoor gun range

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The 2022 case called the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen held that gun restrictions must be analyzed based on a historical notion of the right to bear arms. The decision created issues with the existing gun restrictions that many say are not anchored in historical tradition.


Hunter Biden’s Legal Snafu Was Shaped by Similar Laws

One of the laws that gun advocates say is not based on historical fact is the law that bars anyone with a drug possession charge from owning a firearm.

Hunter Biden walks out of a courthouse in a suit with his mom and his girlfriend next to him

Source: @RedWave_Press/X

This ruling recently drew attention when President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was charged with violating the law.


Some Justices Are Willing To Admit That Historical Grounds Cannot Apply to Modern Problems

Although the three liberal and five conservative judges agreed with the new case, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted that the law “highlights the apparent difficulty faced by judges on the ground” when deciding what should be held up.

A woman wearing pearl earrings and black framed glasses in front of a dark blackground

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Justice Thomas claimed that similar laws at the time of the nation’s founding should determine future restrictions on firearms despite the differences in modern weapons. For example, when the Second Amendment was written, the founding fathers did not have access to accessories like bump stocks that turn a regular rifle into a semi-automatic weapon.


The Ruling Focused on a Case Out of Texas

During the proceedings, the justices heard a case from Texas in 2020. A man whose partner obtained a restraining order against him in 2020 argued that he should not be prosecuted based on the federal gun restriction, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision.

A gun and some cartridges placed on display on a table

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Although a restraining order was filed, Zachey Rahimi was still able to obtain guns and ammo and was implicated in a series of shootings. One incident included Rahimi firing bullets into a house using an AR-15 rifle.


Gun Rights Activists Say That Laws Should Focus On the Present

Although high-level court rulings have often looked to the Second Amendment to make sweeping decisions on gun-related crimes, advocates say that it’s time for a change.

A man holdig a large pistol

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A poll by Gallop shows that 56% of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, want stricter gun laws.


Recent Mass Shootings Show That Police Often Fail To Stop Mass Shooters

In the past four years, the United States has experienced some of the most deadly mass shootings in history. One of the worst was the Uvalde shooting near Dallas, Texas.

A man wearing a cowboy hat and Sheriff uniform carries a large machine gun through a city street

Source: @joncoopertwee/X

During the event, a gunman shot 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school. Police waited outside of the school and allowed the shooter to finish before apprehending the suspect. Now, gun reform advocates have been instrumental in changing the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 in some areas and closing the “boyfriend loophole,” a law that still allowed boyfriends convicted of domestic violence to purchase a firearm.