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PCADV Signs on to National Amicus Brief in U.S. v Rahimi

September 11, 2023

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence joined nearly 60 domestic violence advocacy organizations from across the country, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that struck down three decades of federal law banning abusers under a domestic violence protective order from owning a gun.

At issue is a ruling from a three-judge panel of the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in February that found the federal prohibition on gun possession for people subject to domestic violence civil protective orders is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.

“The Fifth Circuit took away this lifesaving protection, putting millions of victims, their families, and their communities in danger. The bottom line: guns don’t belong in the hands of abusers.”

Melina Milazzo, Nation Network to End Domestic Violence

In 2022, 103 people lost their lives to domestic violence in Pennsylvania. Of those homicides, 67% were committed with firearms. Firearms have been the most common method of killing in domestic violence homicides every year over the last decade. When a male abuser has access to a firearm, the risk that he will kill a female partner increases by 1,000%.

Current Pennsylvania law mandates the relinquishment of firearms for all final PFAs adjudicated by a judge. This requirement is paramount to survivor and community safety and remains the law in Pennsylvania.

The 34-page amicus brief focuses on the challenges of trying to survive an abusive relationship when the chances that the relationship will turn deadly increase when an abuser owns or has access to firearms. This first-hand telling of experiences from survivors of domestic violence collectively demonstrates that domestic violence abusers frequently engage in a pattern of abusive conduct that includes the use of firearms to control and terrorize their victims.

“What the lower court decision misunderstands is that this prohibition is not a removal of a right historically protected in this country,” said Jason Stiehl, who is leading legal the team from Crowell & Moring. “To the contrary, it reflects the historical preference of Americans to protect both individuals and society from further violence and harms to individuals judicially determined to be a dangerous risk. Nothing can make that clearer than the stories of survivors and their family members who live—or have lost their lives to—the daily reality of that risk.”

PCADV released a statement on U.S. v Rahimi in February 2022.